Exercise more, consume less alcohol
- New research shows that two lifestyle choices can benefit people who have suffered from atrial fibrillation (AFib).
- Researchers in one study concluded that any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of AFib coming back.
- Researchers in another study claim that 3 or more hours of exercise per week can reduce the risk of a repeated episode of AFib.
People who have had atrial fibrillation (AFib) in the past may consider stopping drinking alcohol and resuming more aerobic activities to reduce their risk of recurrence.
That’s according to two studies published last week.
A study published today on alcohol consumption goes against the old belief that only excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of AFib recurrence.
A study on exercise and AFib unveiled last week is the first of its kind to show that regular aerobic activities decrease the risk of an AFib incident.
Experts say both studies may better inform healthcare professionals, as well as people with AFib, about lifestyle choices.
For years, medical experts have reported that the chances of atrial fibrillation coming back only increased when alcohol was consumed in excess, according to Dr. Gregory Marcus, MAS, lead author of the new study, as well as a professor of atrial fibrillation. medicine and cardiac electrophysiologist at the University of California San Francisco.
“We were somewhat surprised that we could detect (an increased likelihood of recurrence) with just one drink,” Marcus told Healthline. “This is the first objective evidence that alcohol has an immediate impact.”
Marcus and his team undertook the study after hearing from people that they suffered from AFib after only 1 drink every now and then.
Now, he said, healthcare professionals can use this information to guide people with atrial fibrillation to move away from drinking alcohol.
“I would like to think we can save lives with this information,” Marcus said. “At a minimum, we can avoid (dangerous) situations”.
The study examined the impact of alcohol consumption on AFib using the technology.
Marcus said that using an EKG monitor to record the duration and duration of each episode of AFib, and an ankle monitor to passively record their alcohol consumption, made the study particularly significant because there was little or no human error in reporting alcohol consumption.
Researchers studied 100 adults with intermittent AFib who drank an average of 1 drink per month to determine if alcohol consumption increased their risk.
They found that among the 56 participants who had an episode of atrial fibrillation, they were about twice as likely to have drunk alcohol in the 4 hours before the episode. The association was slightly higher with more drinks and with a 6 hour delay, but it decreased with longer delays.
This information is important, Marcus said, because alcohol is the most widely used substance in the world – and the incidence of AFib is expected to increase exponentially over the next few decades.
Dr Deepak Bhatt, MPH, executive director of interventional cardiovascular programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart & Vascular Center in Boston, said the information from the alcohol study was invaluable.
“This is an extremely insightful study of patients with a history of atrial fibrillation, the most common cardiac arrhythmia, that answers a long-standing question: Can a single drink of alcohol precipitate atrial fibrillation?” ? And the answer is a definite yes, ”he told Healthline.
“This is useful and actionable information for patients who are trying to do everything possible to avoid episodes of atrial fibrillation,” he said. “Avoid alcohol if you want to lower your risk of atrial fibrillation, and even one drink can do it.”
Marcus said the study could also overturn another long-held belief: that moderate alcohol consumption is good for heart health.
“Despite the common perception that alcohol is healthy for the heart, this study and others show that it can be harmful,” he said.
The ACTIVE-AF exercise study was led by Adrian Elliott, PhD, University of Adelaide, Australia, and was presented at the 2021 European Society of Cardiology meeting last week.
It has not yet been peer reviewed or published.
Research supports the long-held belief that exercise helps reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation. He also reports that an increased aerobic exercise plan in place for a year reduced the chances of recurrence.
Although exercise therapy has long been used to treat coronary artery disease and heart failure, this study is considered the first research to examine its impact on AFib.
In it, the researchers placed 120 people with a history of AFib on a 6-month exercise program, giving them the choice of walking, swimming or indoor cycling. Participants gradually accumulated up to 3 1/2 hours of exercise per week.
One year after starting the program, AFib recurrence for those who exercised was 60 percent. For those who didn’t, it was 80 percent.
Elliot said in a press release that the lawsuit proved something he had previously suspected.
“The ACTIVE-AF trial demonstrates that some patients can control their arrhythmia through physical activity, without the need for complex interventions such as ablation or drugs to keep their hearts at a normal rate,” he said. -he declares.
Bhatt said the information is important and could help allay some people’s fears about exercising after an AFib event.
“Sometimes patients with a history of atrial fibrillation are afraid to exercise, but this study is reassuring that they can and, in fact, should,” he said. “So like most things in cardiovascular medicine, exercise is good for you.”
Overall, Marcus noted, the news is positive for people with atrial fibrillation because it provides solutions.
“There are many behaviors that can make measurable changes. This is good news, ”he said.