Emerging risk factors and the dose-response relationship between physical activity and lone atrial fibrillation: a prospective case-control study

Europace. 2016 Jan;18(1):57-63. doi: 10.1093/europace/euv216. Epub 2015 Sep 1.


Aims: The role of high-intensity exercise and other emerging risk factors in lone atrial fibrillation (Ln-AF) epidemiology is still under debate. The aim of this study was to analyse the contribution of each of the emerging risk factors and the impact of physical activity dose in patients with Ln-AF.

Methods and results: Patients with Ln-AF and age- and sex-matched healthy controls were included in a 2:1 prospective case-control study. We obtained clinical and anthropometric data transthoracic echocardiography, lifetime physical activity questionnaire, 24-h ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, Berlin questionnaire score, and, in patients at high risk for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) syndrome, a polysomnography. A total of 115 cases and 57 controls were enrolled. Conditional logistic regression analysis associated height [odds ratio (OR) 1.06 [1.01-1.11]], waist circumference (OR 1.06 [1.02-1.11]), OSA (OR 5.04 [1.44-17.45]), and 2000 or more hours of cumulative high-intensity endurance training to a higher AF risk. Our data indicated a U-shaped association between the extent of high-intensity training and AF risk. The risk of AF increased with an accumulated lifetime endurance sport activity ≥ 2,000 h compared with sedentary individuals (OR 3.88 [1.55-9.73]). Nevertheless, a history of <2000 h of high-intensity training protected against AF when compared with sedentary individuals (OR 0.38 [0.12-0.98]).

Conclusion: A history of ≥ 2,000 h of vigorous endurance training, tall stature, abdominal obesity, and OSA are frequently encountered as risk factors in patients with Ln-AF. Fewer than 2000 total hours of high-intensity endurance training associates with reduced Ln-AF risk.

Keywords: Abdominal obesity; Endurance training; Exercise; Lone atrial fibrillation; OSA; Risk factors.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Exercise Tolerance*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Sports