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UK Study Finds Athletes More Likely to Have Irregular Heartbeats

July 14, 2021 by TWN Staff

Athletes are two and half times more likely than non-athletes to experience irregular heartbeats, a new analysis by the British Journal of Sports Medicine finds.

For the analysis, researchers from Canterbury Christ Church University analyzed 13 studies published between 1990 and December 2020 which examined the health of athletes who engaged in sports including cycling, running, swimming, Nordic skiing, orienteering, rowing, football, rugby and netball.

The studies included data on 70,478 participants.

Previous studies have shown that physical activity can improve cardiovascular health and is associated with reduced illness and deaths.

However the new research suggests there is a threshold beyond which exposure to increasing levels of exercise is linked to heart issues including atrial fibrillation – a condition that sees irregular heartbeats raise the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related problems.

Researchers found the risk of atrial fibrillation was 2.46 times higher among athletes than non-athletes.

“Athletes have a significantly greater likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation compared with non-athlete controls,” the authors of the study wrote.

“Younger aged athletes have a greater relative risk of atrial fibrillation compared with older athletes, however, exercise dose parameters – including training and competition history, as well as potential gender differences for the risk of atrial fibrillation – requires future research,” they said.

It also found that those who played football, rugby or netball appear to have the highest risk of atrial fibrillation compared with athletes taking part in endurance sports such as Nordic skiing, orienteering or rowing.

The study also analysed athletes and non-athletes who had cardiovascular diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, but found no significant difference in risk.

The researchers found younger athletes, those aged under 55, had a much higher risk (3.6 times or 360%) of atrial fibrillation than older athletes.

Those aged 55 and older were 76% more likely to have the condition than non-athletes.

Unfortunately, the researchers said, limited data on female athletes made it difficult to look at the relative risk of atrial fibrillation by gender.

Sports

July 14, 2021
by TWN Staff
UK Study Finds Athletes More Likely to Have Irregular Heartbeats

Athletes are two and half times more likely than non-athletes to experience irregular heartbeats, a new analysis by the British... Read More

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