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How to Keep Active With a Heart Rhythm Disorder

Being diagnosed with any heart problem is daunting, and heart rhythm disorder is no different. Also called arrhythmias, heart rhythm problems run the gamut from a heartbeat that’s too slow, too fast, or irregular. However the condition manifests itself, it’s likely that you need to make some lifestyle changes, especially in how you exercise, but exercise you should.

At Heart Rhythm Associates, Dr. Van H. De Bruyn and our team specialize in heart rhythm disorders, with the goal of helping our patients in Little Rock and central Arkansas lead happy, active lives. If you’ve been diagnosed with an arrythmia, we partner with you to ensure that you have the tools you need to safeguard the health of your heart. And one of the tools in this arsenal is an appropriate exercise regimen.

Here’s a look at how you can remain active with a heart rhythm disorder.

Arrhythmias explained

A heart rhythm disorder, or arrhythmia, is a catchall term for a problem that stems from the electrical impulses in your heart that control your heart rate. When these electrical impulses don’t function properly, it can lead to:

The most common heart rhythm disorder is called atrial fibrillation, or AFib, which affects between 2.7 and 6.1 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason for the widespread in numbers is that AFib doesn’t always present outward symptoms, so many people are unaware they have the condition.

Exercise and arrhythmia

If Dr. De Bruyn diagnoses you with an arrythmia, his first objective is to determine the extent of the problem, which he does through extensive testing. Once he has an idea about where the electrical impulses are going awry and the effect it’s having on your heart, he has a better idea of the steps you can take to improve your health.

While our practice offers comprehensive treatments for arrhythmias, including pacemakers to regulate your heart, there’s much you can do on your own in terms of exercise that will help your heart.

Let’s focus on atrial fibrillation since it’s the most common heart rhythm disorder. AFib is often episodic, which means there are times when your heart may race out of control, and these episodes can be frightening, as you feel dizzy and lightheaded. 

To reduce the number of these episodes, recent research has discovered that regular exercise can play a key role. In one study, for example, 51 AFib patients were divided into two groups: One group didn’t exercise and the other group engaged in high-intensity aerobic exercise. In the group that exercised, there was a significant reduction in the time their heart was in AFib, which went from 8.1% to 4.8%. Ultimately, researchers found that those who exercised greatly reduced the number and severity of their AFib episodes.

The takeaway here is that improving your cardiorespiratory health through aerobic exercise can help keep your AFib under control, as long as the exercise is within reason. This same report also found that endurance athletes increase their risk of AFib by 2 to 7 times.

Getting active

As with everything in life, moderation is key. Your heart is a muscle like any other and benefits from regular exercise to keep it strong. If you have a heart rhythm disorder, the best approach is to start exercising slowly, paying close attention to any warning flags. If you feel dizzy, for example, take a break. But if you feel fine, by all means, keep going. 

If you’d like us to help you get started on the right exercise program for your unique situation, please contact us at (501) 270-6618 or use our online booking tool to schedule a consultation.

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