BackgroundAtrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and is associated with increased risk of stroke and death. Obesity is an independent risk factor for AF, but modifiers of this risk are not well known. We studied the roles of obesity, physical activity, and their interaction in conferring risk of incident AF.
Methods and resultsThe Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study was a prospective observational study of 93 676 postmenopausal women followed for an average of 11.5 years. Incident AF was identified using WHI-ascertained hospitalization records and diagnostic codes from Medicare claims. A multivariate Cox's hazard regression model adjusted for demographic and clinical risk factors was used to evaluate the interaction between obesity and physical activity and its association with incident AF. After exclusion of women with prevalent AF, incomplete data, or underweight body mass index (BMI), 9792 of the remaining 81 317 women developed AF. Women were, on average, 63.4 years old, 7.8% were African American, and 3.6% were Hispanic. Increased BMI (hazard ratio [HR], 1.12 per 5-kg/m(2) increase; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10 to 1.14) and reduced physical activity (>9 vs. 0 metabolic equivalent task hours per week; HR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.85 to 0.96) were independently associated with higher rates of AF after multivariate adjustment. Higher levels of physical activity reduced the AF risk conferred by obesity (interaction P=0.033).
ConclusionsGreater physical activity is associated with lower rates of incident AF and modifies the association between obesity and incident AF.