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I've Got Rhythm

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Staying active and lean may lower your risk of atrial fibrillation, irregular heart rhythms that are linked to a higher risk of stroke. And if you already have atrial fibrillation, don't expect fish oil pills to help.

Researchers monitored roughly 93,600 postmenopausal women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. After 12 years, the most active women (who walked briskly for at least three hours per week or did the equivalent exercise) had a 10% lower risk of atrial fibrillation than those who were sedentary.

Compared to normal-weight women, the risk of atrial fibrillation was higher in those who were overweight, and highest in those who were obese. Woman who were obese and inactive had a 44% higher risk than those who were normal weight and active. However, the most active obese women had only a 17% higher risk.

In a second study, Canadian scientists randomly assigned 337 people with atrial fibrillation to either a daily placebo or fish oil pills that supplied 1600 mg of DHA. After six months, there was no difference in how often the participants had episodes of irregular heartbeats.

The researchers also found no difference in markers of inflammation and oxidative stress between the two groups.

WHAT TO DO: Lose (or don't gain) excess weight, and shoot for at least a half hour of aerobic exercise every day, no matter what you weigh. If you have atrial fibrillation, don't expect fish oil pills to keep your heart rhythm regular.

Source: Journal of American Heart Association 2014 and the Journal of American College of Cardiology

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