Slimming Down Can Keep Heart Beating Right

Obesity increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation in younger women who appeared otherwise healthy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Young people that suffer from obesity may think they are healthy enough. But their obesity is putting them at risk for diseases usually found in older people.

Obesity can lead to an irregular heartbeat. This condition is called atrial fibrillation. An irregular heartbeat can cause a number of health problems and even death.

A recent study found that obesity increased atrial fibrillation in young women who seemed healthy. The study authors suggested that weight loss could decrease the risks.

"Talk to a healthcare professional about healthy weight and nutrition."

Deniz Karasoy, PhD, of Department of Cardiology, Copenhagen University Hospital, and colleagues led the study to see if young obese women had increased risk of atrial fibrillation.

Researchers used data from a Danish childbirth and hospitalization registry. Data from a total of 271,203 women that gave birth during 2004 to 2009 were used in the study. The women did not have atrial fibrillation at the time they gave birth. The researchers followed this group of women for over four years.

The women were placed into different groups based on their body mass index (BMI). The BMI is used to measure obesity.

The researchers looked at how many women, grouped by BMI, were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation over one year. In one year, out of 100,000 women, the researchers found the following:

  • 7.4 women with a normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) developed atrial fibrillation
  • 8.5 overweight women (BMI of 25 to 29.9) developed atrial fibrillation
  • 15.8 obese women (BMI of 30 to 35) developed atrial fibrillation
  • 27.3 very obese women (BMI over 35) developed atrial fibrillation

The researchers commented that obesity has long been considered a risk factor for atrial fibrillation. This study suggested that otherwise healthy young women are at risk if they are obese. Targeting and preventing obesity in younger populations could improve their health risks.

Study authors noted some limitations with their research. The only data available was atrial fibrillation hospitalization. Information on symptoms, undiagnosed atrial fibrillation and treatment by a primary care physician was not available. The lack of data could mean an underestimate of atrial fibrillation.

This study, titled "Obesity is a risk factor for atrial fibrillation among fertile young women: a nationwide cohort study," was published in the Europace journal. It was funded by the Danish Heart Foundation and the Department of Cardiology, Copenhagen University Hospital. The authors disclosed no conflict of interest.

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Review Date: 
January 14, 2013
Last Updated:
August 19, 2013