Obesity is a worldwide problem with a significant presence in the United States. People with obesity are much more susceptible to developing health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and sleep apnea, as well as heart disease. Of these adverse health conditions, the risk of heart disease includes, but is not limited to, atrial fibrillation.
From Obesity to AFib
Obesity has the potential to increase your risk of developing atrial fibrillation in a variety of ways. The heightened probability of developing health conditions due to obesity can lead to the development of atrial fibrillation. Even if other ailments do not occur, fat cells caused by obesity have been found to secrete inflammatory hormones, which can directly result in the development of atrial fibrillation. Obesity can lead to the development of a wide variety of health concerns and puts patients at higher risk of an AFib diagnosis.
The Impact of Weight Loss on Atrial Fibrillation
For many years doctors have advised overweight patients who developed atrial fibrillation to lose weight. This advice was supported in 2015, by a formative clinical trial, the Legacy Trial, which emphasized to doctors and patients why weight loss is such a crucial aspect of atrial fibrillation management. The Legacy Trial consisted of the observation of more than 1,000 patients over five years. The results of this study showed that patients who lost over 10% of their body weight had over a six-fold improvement in their atrial fibrillation; with many of the patients experiencing significant weight loss demonstrating no major atrial fibrillation symptoms.
While the findings in the Legacy Trial are promising for the world of atrial fibrillation, not every instance AFib can be aided by losing weight. However, if a patient is suffering from obesity, weight loss can dramatically decrease their burden and improve AFib symptoms. The Legacy Trial shows that not only is weight loss crucial to the management of patients' atrial fibrillation but that it can also drastically improve the impact and frequency of AFib symptoms.
Weight loss is a long-term management technique, as it can take years for patients to achieve and maintain their goal weight. While I’m sure it isn’t the quick fix you may have been hoping for, the scientific data from the Legacy Trial shows that reducing weight in an obese patient can show significant improvement in the amount of atrial fibrillation that patient experiences.
Losing weight is easier said than done, but it is an important treatment strategy for the long-term management of individuals with atrial fibrillation.