MONDAY, Aug 3, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Physically fit patients with the irregular heartbeat atrial fibrillation (AF) are most likely to benefit from ablation, a new study finds.
Patients who are less fit are hospitalized more often, continue to use anti-arrhythmic drugs longer and have higher death rates, researchers say.
"AF does not occur in a vacuum but rather represents one manifestation of the impact of poor physical fitness and related risk factors including hypertension, obesity, diabetes and others," said researcher Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
His team studied 591 patients who had cardiac ablation at Cleveland Clinic between 2012 and 2018.
In ablation, small areas of the heart are scarred to help prevent movement of abnormal signals that cause an irregular heartbeat.
In the 32 months after treatment, 271 patients' Afib returned. Among those who were physically unfit, 79% had a recurrence, compared with 54% of those who were moderately fit and 28% of the fittest.
The study found that 56% of the fittest patients were able to stop taking drugs to prevent arrhythmia, compared with 11% of the least fit. About 19% of the fittest had to return to the hospital compared to 61% of the least fit, the study found.
Thirty patients died. Of those,11% were among the least fit; 4% were moderately fit and 3% were among the fittest. Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and sleep apnea were similar across all three groups, the study found.
"High physical fitness can keep you in rhythm after AF ablation," Jaber said. "Being fit is a great anti-arrhythmic. Our findings indicate that being physically fit acted almost like a medication in a dose-response fashion where there was a gradual and sustained success in 'staying in rhythm.'"
The study was published online Aug. 3 in the journal Heart Rhythm.
To learn more about atrial fibrillation, visit the American Heart Association.
SOURCE: Heart Rhythm Society, news release, Aug. 3, 2020