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After receiving a diagnosis of AFib, there can be a lot of questions around the disease and how that can limit their life. Does AFib also mean that you have to cut out your exercises to keep the heart from undergoing more stress?

When being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib), there are some obvious lifestyle changes and atrial fibrillation treatment that you need to consider in order to live with this taxing disease.

The heart is an under-appreciated organ and works constantly for the duration of your life without needing rest. Only when you have an arrhythmia or some form of angina does this organ receive the focus that should it command. AFib is a disease that is increasing in prevalence worldwide and is believed to increase in likelihood as a patient ages [1].

The CDC estimates that AFIb can be found in 2 percent of the population less than 65 years old and over 9 percent of those above 65 [2]. It is no surprise that as patients undergo treatment through either surgical or pharmacological means, there is concern over the ability of those affected to participate in regular physical exercises [3].

Being diagnosed with AFib is not a reason to avoid exercises but patients must be mindful of these tips to make sure they are exercising cautiously. 

Number 1: Do Not Be Intimidated by Strenuous Exercises 

An unfortunate trend in the American population is the fact that the population has transformed from an active society in as recently as 1988 to a mostly sedentary society by 2010. Data shows that in 1988, only 11.4 percent of men and 19.1 percent of women lived a sedentary lifestyle compared to the most recent data of 43.5 percent of men and over 51 percent of women from 2010 [4]. This trend explains why there is so high prevalence of obesity, diabetes and various forms of heart disease like AFib present in our nation today.  

There are very few conditions that warrant a doctor to recommend a patient from discontinuing exercise and AFib is definitely not a one of them. A recent study conducted focusing on women's health and AFib found that women diagnosed with AFib would have a 16 percent reduction in AFib symptoms after participating in strenuous exercise from 1 to 3 times a week with respect to the starting weight of the patient [5].

Another study conducted targeted the common assumption in the medical community that strenuous exercise could actually increase the risk of AFib. It was determined that there is no link between total time exercising nor level of intensity of exercising and the likelihood of aggravating your AFib [6].    

Number 2: Make Sure You Exercise Consistently 

Another lifestyle change you can make to treat your AFib is to make sure you are exercising consistently. As you age, it is a fantasy to advise patients to regularly partake in strenuous exercise because this population is prone to other comorbidities that make mobility challenging. Another study conducted by Cardiovascular Health found that patients regularly participating in light to moderate exercise showed a graded reduction in the progression of AFib in patients [7]. This same study found that the highest benefit was found in individuals less than 65 years old and women.  

It was determined that leisure-activity exercise and regular walking routines were linked with the greatest benefits in the older population [8]. This will have an added bonus of increasing the quality of life for the patients as they prolong their mobility.  It is common-place in hospital corridors that as patients spend more time in bed, they are more frustrated and less hopeful of their current medical state. Even a few hours outside in the sun can make patients more cooperative with their treatment plan and they tend to complain less about their medical issues. 

Number 3: Make Sure You Monitor Your Diet While Completing Your Aerobic Exercises

It is amazing how many diseases in medicine are linked with underlying obesity and AFib is no exception.  A study conducting by the American Heart Association found that patients that lost 10 percent of their body weight were 6 times more likely to no longer require treatment for atrial fibrillation [9]. 

Further studies found that patients that underwent some type of exercise rehabilitation following their cardiac operations were much more likely to control their AFib symptoms and would be able to achieve significant functional gains [10]. This can lead to patients having a stronger likelihood of being able to complete their cardio-respiratory physical activity. This can range from anything like light jogging to climbing staircases. It was determined that this type of exercise was the most beneficial for patients suffering from chronic AFib [11]. 

As can be seen from these studies, exercise is not a contraindication when it comes to AFib. If you are less than 65, make sure you try to continuously get some strenuous aerobic exercise in during the week. If you are more seasoned, even leisurely strolls around the park can make a big difference in the occurrences of AFib symptoms.

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