MedicalResearch.com Interview with
Marco Perez, MD
Instructor in Cardiovascular Medicine
Director, Inherited Cardiac Arrhythmia Clinic
Stanford University Medical Center
Cardiac Electrophysiology & Arrhythmia Service
Stanford, CA 94305-5233
Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Perez: It was already known that obesity is an important risk factor for atrial fibrillation. We studied over 80,000 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative who were followed for the onset of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm associated with stroke and death. We found that those who exercised more than 9 MET-hours/week (equivalent to a brisk walk of 30 minutes six days a week) were 10% less likely to get atrial fibrillation than those who were sedentary. Importantly, the more obese the women were, the more they benefited from the exercise in terms of atrial fibrillation risk reduction.
Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Perez: Other studies have shown that younger populations who perform extreme forms of exercise may be at higher risk of atrial fibrillation. However, we found in this older population that even women who exercised vigorously for more than 15 MET-hours per week still had a significant reduction of atrial fibrillation.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Perez: Older women who exercise more have a lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation. In fact, obese women may derive the most benefit. Clinicians and patients may not have to be as concerned about exercise increasing their risk of atrial fibrillation and may benefit from a greater quantity and intensity of exercise.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Perez: Similar studies should be performed in other groups such as men and younger women. The women in this study, who we believe performed within the range of typical exercise patterns in older women, did not have a higher risk of atrial fibrillation. However, it is not yet known at what point extreme exercise becomes unhealthy in terms of future arrhythmia risk, and this should be studied more closely in athletes who perform more extreme levels of exercise.