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So far the heart rhythm disorders (of which atrial fibrillation is most common) were generally attributed to any or a combination of factors such as hyperthyroidism, alcohol use, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, other cardiac conditions, enlargement of the left ventricle walls, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, sick sinus syndrome and pericarditis (1).
But now research conducted by the University of Adelaide in Australia has found increased positive correlation between obesity and presence of atrial fibrillation among patients.
As per Dr. Hany Abed*, cardiologist and PhD candidate working with the university’s Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders and the Discipline of Medicine, obesity brings about a change in the size and structure of the heart muscles as well as the method of working, contraction and its electrical functioning.
It is this change in the heart’s electrical functioning of the obese that causes atrial fibrillation among them (2). The current basic lab researches conducted on sheep have confirmed that obesity among sheep causes electrical abnormalities in their heart chamber eventually causing atrial fibrillation.
As per Dr. Abed, atrial fibrillation gets diagnosed incidentally during health check-ups of those (especially the obese) who come seeking consultation for symptoms such as dizziness, palpitations of the heart, chest pains, etc. He is quick to add that the first signs of heart rhythm disorder surfaces when someone has had a stroke.
According to Abed, while obesity can be observed in all age groups, it is the elderly who are most at risk of experiencing atrial fibrillation. Unfortunately, it is this group that is becoming fatter and increasing their risks.
By way of hope he points out that, "The costs to the health system and the community are enormous. However, early results in our research show that atrial fibrillation can be reversed if people lose weight." (3)