Cutting down a lot of weight can help overweight or obese people reduce their risk of developing a potentially fatal irregular heartbeat, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals.
Being overweight has long been seen as a trigger for a condition known as atrial fibrillation, where the heartbeat rhythm is not regular. The condition is linked with a number of heart problems and could even lead to strokes. Researchers led by Dr Prashanthan Sanders conducted their study on a group of 150 people body-mass index (BMI) greater than 27 over a period of 19 months.
According to the researchers, the risk of atrial fibrillation increased by four to five percent for every 1-point rise in the BMI. Half of the participants were provided with advice on nutrition and exercise while the other half underwent a weight-management plan that for the first eight weeks. At the end of the study, people who underwent the weight management plan lost an average of 33 pounds of weight compared to 12.5 pounds from the other group. The researchers found that while the risk of atrial fibrillation was lowered in both groups, those from the weight management plan group displayed significant decrease in symptoms compared to the second group.
"In this study, a structured weight management program for highly symptomatic patients with atrial fibrillation reduced symptom burden and severity and reduced antiarrhythmic [prescription drug] use. Although population aging is regarded as an important contributor, obesity may account for a substantial proportion of the increasing prevalence of atrial fibrillation", the researchers wrote in their report.