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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can over exercising cause atrial fibrillation?

    Recently I have been exercising (running) a tremendous amount. I have been competing regularly and have looked into some of the consequences of my lifestyle (mostly sports related injuries). I was wondering if over exercising could lead to other conditions such as atrial fibrillation?
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    Luke Delvecchio

    Diabetes Educator, Exercise Physiologist, Nutritionist

    Specializing in the assessment and treatment of metabolism related weight disorders. View Profile

    Hello,


    We should first understand what Atrial fibrillation is?  AF is a condition were the upper chambers (atrial chambers) of the heart beat to rapidly, which can cause the lower chambers (ventricles) to pump less blood out to the rest of the body.

    Some of the more common causes of AF are:  older age, high blood pressure, excessive alcohol intake or other underlying heart conditions.

    Some research (Karjalainen J,Kujala UM,Kaprio J,Sarna S,Viitasalo M. Lone atrial fibrillation in vigorously exercising middle aged men: case–control study. BMJ 1998;316:1784-5)  have documented a relationship between long-term endurance sport practice or rigorous occupational physical activity and atrial fibrillation (AF) and atrial flutter.

    The conclusion from many studies suggest that vigorous physical activity, whether related to long-term endurance sport practice or to occupational activities, or can increase the risk for AF.  So your assumption may be correct if you have been experiencing the symptoms of AF (such as rapid or irregular heart beats, and light headiness/dizzyness)


    This also could imply that you may be suffering from a type sport-related atrial fibrillation, which you need to consult a cardiologist about for a more definative answer and thats were I would direct you to for now.

    The good news is that you can exercise safely with AF (if in fact you are diagnosed with this) it may just mean you need reduce your exercise volumes.
     

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