Atrial Fibrillation: Risk With Intense Exercise Varies by Age Interview with:
Dr Nikola Drca
Department of Cardiology at the Karolinska Institute,
Karolinska University Hospital
Stockholm Sweden

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Nikola Drca: We found that intense physical activity like leisure-time exercise of more than five hours per week at the age of 30 increased the risk of developing atrial fibrillation later in life by 19%. In contrast, moderate-intensity physical activity like walking or bicycling of more than 1 hour per day at older age (age 60) decreased the risk by 13%.

MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?

The finding that different intensities of physical activity at different ages had different influence on the risk of atrial fibrillation was unexpected. High-intensity at young age increased the risk while low-intensity at older age decreased the risk.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Physical activity contributes to prevention of several disease and in general is good for the well being of your body and mind. When giving advice to the public regarding physical activity it is important to consider all the positive effects of physical activity on several medical conditions and even on extended life expectancy. Physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle is a far bigger problem in the general population than excessive physical activity. However frequent high-intensity exercise during many years is associated with a increase risk of atrial fibrillation. This could be interesting when you try to explain the etiology and pathogenesis of atrial fibrillation.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Studies on women are necessery, since this study and most of previous studies covering this topic is done on men. Mechanistic studies that explains how and why intense-physical activity increase the risk of atrial fibrillation. Maybe that will help us better understand the development of atrial fibrillation.


Atrial fibrillation is associated with different levels of physical activity levels at different ages in men

Nikola Drca, Alicja Wolk, Mats Jensen-Urstad, Susanna C Larsson

Heart heartjnl-2013-305304Published Online First: 14 May 2014 doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2013-305304