04:14pm Tuesday 07 July 2020

Long-distance cross-country skiers at increased risk of heart rhythm disturbances

The risk of developing atrial fibrillation (an irregular or abnormally fast heart beat) or bradyarrhythmias (a heart beat that is too slow) was greater among skiers who completed a higher number of races and with a faster finishing time relative to other participants.

­- We found that those who completed five or more races in a period of ten years, had a 30% higher risk of developing any arrhythmia than those who did one race only. Similarly, skiers who had the fastest finishing time relative to the other participants also had a 30% higher risk of developing any arrhythmia in subsequent years, says Kasper Andersen, cardiologist at Uppsala University Hospital and PhD student at Uppsala University.

Kasper Andersen and his colleagues identified 52,755 cross-country skiers who had completed the Vasaloppet between 1989-1998, and followed them through to 2005. During this follow-up period, 919 participants experienced some form of arrhythmia (1,74% of the total number of participants).

­- It is important to emphasise that numerous studies have shown that exercise protects against cardiovascular disease and other diseases. Our findings should not deter people from exercising, especially as we did not find any increased incidence of arrhythmias leading to sudden death.

According to Kasper Andersen, previous studies have shown that Vasaloppet participants are less likely to die during the follow-up period than the general population and that mortality decreases with increasing numbers of races. This has also been shown in a Dutch long-distance skating event.

­- Therefore, we believe that it is generally safe to prepare for and participate in the Vasaloppet races, says Kasper Andersen.

Read the full story in the European Heart Journal.


 Uppsala University |Box 256, 751 05 Uppsala| Tel. 018-471 00 00

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