AFib May Affect More Than the Heart

Atrial fibrillation may be linked to declines in walking and strength abilities

(RxWiki News) Those with atrial fibrillation (AFib) who are over 70 years old may be vulnerable to a decline in physical performance, a new study found.

AFib occurs when the heart’s two small upper chambers (atria) beat irregularly and too fast.

The research team behind this new study evaluated 2,753 people and their physical performance at different ages: 70, 74, 78 and 82.

After comparing changes between the patients who had been diagnosed with AFib and those participants who did not have AFib, the research team found that those with AFib saw a greater decline in physical performance tests. These performance tests evaluated balance, grip strength, how far one could walk in an allotted time and the length of time it took to walk 40 meters.

In fact, the team found the decline in physical performance seen in those participants with AFib was equivalent to an extra four years of aging.

These researchers noted that these results do not necessarily mean AFib and declining physical performance have a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

"There may be other factors, such as inflammation or accelerated muscle loss, that contribute to both increased risk of AFib and declining physical performance," said Jared W. Magnani, MD, MsC, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University, in a press release.

Speak to your doctor about living with AFib.

This study was published in Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology.

The Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation funded this research. Information on conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.