Weight Loss and Heart Palpitations (AFib)


Have you heard of “AFib”? It’s a condition that approximately 2.7 million Americans have, although some may not know it. AFib is short for “atrial fibrillation” and it involves irregular beating of the heart. Some people describe it as they feel their heart flutter or skip a beat. According to the American Heart Association, only 33% of people with AFib realize the condition is serious. Although many dismiss AFib as a minor and passing inconvenience, the American Heart Association strongly warns that “untreated atrial fibrillation doubles the risk of heart-related deaths and causes a 4–5-fold increased risk for stroke.”

This is an important health condition for bariatric surgeons and people struggling with obesity to be aware of. A new study called the LEGACY registry study indicates that “Weight loss might eliminate atrial fibrillation (AFib) among overweight or obese individuals, particularly if the shed pounds don’t return.” The researchers found that patients who lost at least 10% of their body weight were 6 times more likely to have no more episodes of irregular heart beat, without taking their medication. While losing the weight was important in this study, what was of additional importance was whether the weight stayed off, or returned. As many know, keeping a substantial amount of weight off is even harder than losing the weight in the first place.

Specifically, the researchers found that those who maintained their weight loss within 2%, had an 85% reduction in AFib. Those in the 2-5% weight fluctuation group had just under a 60% reduction in aFib, and those whose weight fluctuated the most, had smaller but still notable 44% reduction in AFib related to the initial weight loss. Dr. Gersh of the Mayo Clinic said, “Bottom line is this is a very simple strategy for people with atrial fibrillation. They must lose weight…and I think we should really consider that before we do ablative procedures because their recurrence rate was markedly reduced. Wonderful study.” Although the idea of losing weight to reduce AFib is simple, the actual process of losing and maintaining substantial weight loss is substantially complex.

There are many weight loss options from just lifestyle changes, to medication, to surgery. Bariatric surgery procedures like the gastric sleeve, gastric bypass and gastric band, combined with the appropriate lifestyle changes, have proven to be the safest and most effective way to lose a substantial amount of weight. Additionally, patients who have bariatric surgery are much more successful at maintaining weight loss than those who lose weight otherwise. This study about AFib is one more reason to seriously consider your obesity treatment options.

If you would like to learn about your weight loss options, the team at CHI Memorial Metabolic and Bariatric Care is ready to answer your questions. Call (423) 899-1000 for more information.