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Obesity and Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) – The Importance of Multi-Specialty Treatment

We all know by now that obesity, and excess weight in general, cause a host of negative effects, especially to the cardiovascular system. In the past couple decades, we’ve understood that excess weight can contribute to, or be a primary cause of, many significant diseases and conditions. One very interesting potential obesity-related disease is Atrial Fibrillation or AFib. AFib is the most common heart arrhythmia affecting Americans and patients around the world. It is a very fast and irregular heartbeat that can feel like a heart attack. It can be paroxysmal/occasional or can be more persistent. As a result, it often goes undetected during a routine EKG at a physical with the primary care physician.

Research into AFib has shown that obesity is a significant causal factor in many cases of the condition.

But What’s The Big Deal About AFib?

On the surface, an irregular heartbeat may not seem to be that big of a deal. However, patients who suffer from AFib are often severely debilitated by the expectation of the next episode or by episodes that may last for a prolonged period of time. Further, AFib is progressive, so the condition usually worsens, both in severity and duration, over time.

However, the most concerning part about AFib is it increases the risk of stroke by up to five times. This is because blood begins to pool in the left atrial appendage (LAA) of the heart. This pooling blood begins to clot and if a clot breaks off, it can travel into the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal, if left untreated. Check out the Watchman procedure to close the LAA.

Now, we do have specific treatments for arrhythmias that include medication in the form of blood thinners and antiarrhythmics. There are also procedures such as cardiac catheter ablation that are very successful at curing many cases of AFib with minimal risk. However, these need to be implemented with a comprehensive lifestyle change to address the root cause.

The Bottom Line

Excess weight and obesity can cause a host of conditions and diseases in the body. One of these diseases is Atrial Fibrillation or AFib which can increase the risk of stroke significantly. Over 5 million Americans suffer from AFib and this number is growing every year. If you are suffering from excess weight or obesity, speak to your cardiologist about options for getting healthier. Not only can you reduce your risk of AFib and stroke, by losing weight, you can live a longer healthier life with fewer long-term cardiovascular problems.

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