There is a clear relationship between obesity and the occurrence of atrial fibrillation. The risk increases as the Body Mass Index (BMI = weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) increases.

In addition, obesity can increase the risk of complications from atrial fibrillation such as thromboembolic events and strokes. Obesity also has a negative influence on the treatment of atrial fibrillation with ablation. The risk of atrial fibrillation recurrence is greater after a successful procedure.

Being overweight also increases the chance of developing risk factors that are individually linked to the chance of developing atrial fibrillation:

  • Increased blood pressure (Hypertension)

Patients with hypertension have a 1.7-fold increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation. In addition, it is an independent risk factor for developing thromboembolism as a result of arrhythmia. Treating hypertension is not only important in preventing atrial fibrillation but also in reducing the risk of thromboembolism. Losing weight is part of the management of high blood pressure.

  • Vascular diseases and myocardial infarction

The risk of developing atrial fibrillation increases by 60 to 77% in patients with a heart attack.

  • Diabetes mellitus

Incidents of atrial fibrillation are twice as high in patients with diabetes. Like hypertension, it also increases the risk of developing thromboembolism.

  • Sleep apnea

Overweight patients have an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Due to the closure of the throat by an excess of fat mass, a breathing pause is created during sleep. This, subsequently, has a negative influence on the quality of sleep. It is also associated with an increased risk of mortality, cardiovascular events and an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. The chance of success of atrial fibrillation treatment (medication or ablation) is lower in patients with OSA, therefore, the treatment of OSA consists of the combination of CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) and weight loss.

Given the obvious association between obesity and the risk of atrial fibrillation, weight loss is an important pillar in the treatment of this arrhythmia. It can help avoid or decrease treatments for atrial fibrillation. In patients undergoing ablation, it lowers the risk of the procedure and increases the success rate.

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