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Your life depends on your heart functioning without a glitch. And if you want to avoid a life-threatening irregularity, there’s a simple trick for keeping it beating correctly.
One of the most common heart threats that you face as you age is atrial fibrillation, a condition that disrupts the regular heart beat. According to an analysis by the World Health Organization, more than 33.5 million people worldwide, about .5 percent of everyone on earth, suffers from this condition.
Atrial fibrillation takes place when the electrical signals in the upper sections of the heart (the atria) lose their coherency and become erratic. The resulting irregular heartbeat can lead to heart palpitations, fatigue and other problems.
At the same time, when the heart’s pumping action becomes sluggish, blood flow can slow down and clots may develop. If the clots break loose and reach the brain, a stroke can result.
The simplest way to protect yourself against atrial fibrillation is to do some walking everyday.
A study at the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that walking for 30 minutes a day and staying active can reduce your risk of an irregular heartbeat by 10 percent compared to your risk if you rarely get off the couch. Exercise reduces your risk even if you are so overweight that you are considered obese.
“We found the more physically active the women were, the less likely it was that they would develop atrial fibrillation,” says researcher Marco V. Perez, M.D., director of the Inherited Arrhythmia Clinic at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “Also, the more obese the women were, the more they benefited from having greater degrees of physical activity.”
The study tracked more than 81,000 post-menopausal women ages 50-79 for 11 years.