Wearable Devices Show That Physical Activity May Lower Atrial Fibrillation, Stroke Risk

May 26, 2021
Physical activity that conforms to medical and health association guidelines is associated with a lower risk of atrial fibrillation and stroke, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal. Steven Lubitz, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues analysed nearly 100,000 individuals equipped with wrist-worn accelerometers to measure their movement. The findings suggest that data from wearables, including a new generation of devices with sensors that allow for detection of atrial fibrillation, could provide an opportunity for the public health community to promote moderate physical activity as an effective way to improve health outcomes. “Although some population-based studies have observed a lower risk of atrial fibrillation with exercise, the link has remained inconclusive in part because those studies relied on self-reporting by participants -- a less than exact science,” said Dr. Lubitz. “Wearable accelerometers, on the other hand, provide an objective and reproducible measure of physical activity. What we found was that activity in accordance with guideline recommendations is indeed associated with substantially lower risks of both atrial fibrillation and stroke.” Nearly 100,000 members of the UK Biobank agreed to wear accelerometers for 7 days. The researchers then compared that data with later diagnoses of atrial fibrillation and stroke among participants, most aged between 55 and 70 years. “Our findings supported recommendations from the European Society of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, and the World Health Organization for 150 minutes or greater of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week,” said lead author Shaan Khurshid, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital. Given the explosive growth of “smart” devices with increasingly sophisticated detection capabilities, the study stressed the exciting opportunities that now exist to link disease prevention programs to atrial fibrillation diagnostics. Those devices include wearables and smartphones able to measure heart rate and thus detect possible arrhythmias and other irregularities through their photoplethysmography and electrocardiography capabilities. “It’s not hard to imagine how these devices could be used by physicians and patients to achieve a level of physical activity which we know to be associated with a reduced risk of atrial fibrillation,” said Dr. Lubitz. “And by potentially identifying atrial fibrillation through photoplethysmography and electrocardiography, users could be alerted to seek professional care before a stroke develops.” “Wearable devices capable of objective activity monitoring, motivational messaging, and disease detection could be low-cost, highly effective interventions to improve health outcomes for countless numbers of people,” he added. Reference: http://fdslive.oup.com/www.oup.com/pdf/production_in_progress.pdf SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital