Atrial fibrillation is only one type of cardiovascular condition, but it also happens to be the most common type of arrhythmia. It is often linked to obesity, as obese men and women tend to get this condition more often than those who are not obese. A study that was looking at patients who were at a higher risk for atrial fibrillation studies patients who had weight loss surgery, and others who did not. The results offer definitive proof that the overall risk for this condition is lowered when someone has weight loss surgery. Researchers believe it is a combination of the weight loss itself, and the hormonal changes following procedures like gastric bypass.
About Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia that causes a different rate of heartbeat rhythm. Arrhythmias cause a heartbeat that has an odd rhythm, or beats too slow or too fast. With atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart, known as the atria, are having problems getting the right electrical signals to fibrillate, which is when it contracts quickly. If you have atrial fibrillation, blood in the heart is pooling in the atria and not pumping to the lower chambers at the right speed. Therefore, the upper chambers are not working well with the lower chambers of the heart. Atrial fibrillation is not necessarily something that happens ongoing, though it can. Some people only experience it on rare occasions. It is dangerous because of the risks of heart disease or stroke while this occurs.
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Many people with atrial fibrillation don’t even realize they have the condition. Those who do notice symptoms like retaining fluid, extreme fatigue and exhaustion, heart palpitations, having shortness of breast, discomfort in the chest, being lightheaded, or losing the ability to exercise at the right capacity.
Before you look at the benefits of weight loss surgery and atrial fibrillation risks, you should know more about the disease and what the possible treatments are. The treatments for atrial fibrillation are meant to reduce the risk of having a stroke from blood clots forming, get a normal heart rhythm, get a better balance of when the heart ventricles are contracting, and reduce the risk of other conditions, such as hyperthyroidism. The main treatment for atrial fibrillation is taking medications to accomplish this, but losing weight is also considered a treatment because so many people with obesity struggle with cardiovascular problems, including atrial fibrillation.
A study was performed on patients who were at risk of atrial fibrillation and were obese, who opted to get weight loss surgery. It was done at the Heart Rhythm Society in Utah, and headed by electrophysiologist Dr. John D. Day. He had seen many patients come into his office when they got the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, concerned about having the condition for their entire life. He decided to survey obese patients who were good candidates for weight loss surgery, which included a total of 438 patients in Olmsted County, Minnesota. They reviewed their medical records and took a series of tests before and after the procedure.
Results of the Study
There were 326 of the original 438 who got weight loss surgery for their atrial fibrillation, while the control group did not and included the remaining 112 people. The body mass index (BMI) was considerably higher in the patients that had bariatric surgery, over 40 for each of those patients. The follow-up was done 7.2 years after the surgery for patients at risk of atrial fibrillation. In the surgery group, 3.1 percent of the patients got atrial fibrillation, while a significantly higher percent of 12.5 percent in the control group for atrial fibrillation, more than triple the amount of people. Patients that were in the surgery group also saw many other improvements in their cardiovascular and overall physical health thanks to lowering their BMI and maintaining long-term weight loss.
Why Did Surgery Help?
Weight gain and obesity, especially severe obesity, is a known risk factor for atrial fibrillation. Adding more weight and fat to the body increases your risk for a variety of cardiovascular issues including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and heart attack and yes, atrial fibrillation. Researchers knew the link between obesity and atrial fibrillation, supposing that weight loss through bariatric surgery might help the patient reduce their risk or avoid the condition altogether. Through the results of the study, they did see a massive improvement when comparing patients who got the surgery, and those that did not.
Is Bariatric Surgery a Cure?
Bariatric surgery is not a cure for many conditions it helps to treat, not just atrial fibrillation, but things like diabetes and arthritis. However, the studies do point to a majority of patients losing weight with bariatric surgery showing great improvements with these and other weight-related conditions. Since atrial fibrillation increases your risk for more serious conditions, such as stroke and heart attack, it definitely doesn’t hurt to get the surgery if you are a good candidate.
Candidates for Weight Loss Surgery
Not everyone who is at risk for atrial fibrillation is a good candidate for weight loss surgery. Your doctor will look at your current weight and health, and medical history, to determine whether or not this is a good surgery for you. You must be over a certain BMI to get weight loss surgery or at least 100 pounds overweight. You also need to be committed to a lifestyle change before and after the surgery, as what you eat, how much you eat, and your general daily lifestyle changes dramatically. Therefore, you must be ready for the surgery and want to lose weight. You also need to be realistic about the results you can achieve, not getting it for the sole reason of improving atrial fibrillation or any other specific condition. There is a very high rate of success following bariatric surgery, but mentally you need to be prepared for it. Talk to a doctor and discuss the option of weight loss surgery.