We have talked previously here at the blog about arrhythmias….and specifically about atrial arrhthmias–those that arise in the upper chambers of the heart.
In an interesting study summarized in an article last week at ScienceDaily.com, Norwegian investigators reported on a longitudinal study of cross country skiers, focusing on the development of atrial fibrillation. Starting in 1976, a group of 122 athletes have been followed, with monitoring for the development of arrhythmias. The study is remarkable because of the length (30+ years) of follow-up.
It turns out that, among participants who were alive for the entire period, the prevalence of “lone atrial fibrillation” (that is, without other heart disease) was 12.8%. And this compares to a prevalence of ~0.5% in the general population. Among the athletes with atrial fibrillation, there was also a higher frequency of enlargement of the left atrium and bradycardia (a heart rate
Other studies have also shown an increased prevalence of atrial fibrillation among endurance athletes. It’s not entirely clear yet what the long-term implications might be. And it may well be the case that no specific treatment is needed for athletes who have “lone atrial fibrillation.”
I imagine that more information from this study (and commentary, as well) will become available, and I will share anything else I learn.