Could being obese increase the risk of developing a heart flutter?

New research has linked obesity to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm irregularity which can lead to stroke and heart failure. — AFP pic
New research has linked obesity to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm irregularity which can lead to stroke and heart failure. — AFP pic

NEW YORK, April 20 — New research has found that individuals who are obese are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm irregularity which can lead to stroke, heart failure, and other serious health conditions.

Carried out by Penn State researchers, the large-scale study looked at 67,278 participants with an average age of 43.8 and followed them for eight years.

Half of the participants were diagnosed as obese, with these subjects significantly more likely to have high blood pressure at the beginning of the study than the non-obese participants (29.5per cent vs 14.6per cent) and diabetes (12.7per cent vs 5.2per cent).

At the eight-year follow-up, after taking into account age, gender, high blood pressure, and diabetes, the team found that being obese was also associated with a new diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, with 2.7 per cent of the obese participants developing the condition compared to 1.8 per cent of the patients without obesity.

“If you have both atrial fibrillation and obesity, treating obesity will go a long way in treating and managing your atrial fibrillation,” said Dr Andrew Foy, one of the study’s co-authors.

“And if you have obesity, and lose weight through diet, exercise, or even surgery, that will help reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions like atrial fibrillation.”

“We have lots of interventions aimed at treating hypertension, but we don’t really have the same when it comes to obesity,” added Foy.

“We know that obesity is a problem, but we need to be as serious about the management, prevention and treatment of the obesity crisis as we are about conditions like hypertension and diabetes.”

Atrial fibrillation, also known as heart flutter, develops when the electrical currents in the heart become irregular and the top chambers of the heart quiver or flutter. 

The condition puts patients at a higher risk for developing other heart complications.

“Practitioners should counsel their obese patients to look for symptoms of atrial fibrillation, such as palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness and encourage them to lose weight,” commented co-author Dr Gerald Naccarelli, “In addition, practitioners have to look for other risk factors that are more common in obese patients such as diabetes, hypertension or coronary artery disease.”

The results can be found published online in the American Journal of Cardiology. — AFP-Relaxnews