Can Weight Loss Reverse Atrial Fibrillation?

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It’s known that weight loss is important for people who are obese and have atrial fibrillation (AF)-a risk factor for stroke. Weight loss helps lower blood pressure, manage sleep apnea, and reduce the frequency of AF episodes. Now there is evidence that weight loss can reverse AF.

Researchers followed 355 AF patients who were obese and took part in a doctor-supervised weight-loss program. The participants received personalized diet plans, started exercising three to four times a week, and got extra help in addressing all of their AF risk factors, including high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and smoking.

Four years later, people who had managed to lose at least 10 percent of their starting weight were faring best. Overall, 135 people lost that much weight. And 119, or 88 percent, of them had been either AF-free in the past year, or had gone from persistent AF episodes to occasional (or paroxysmal) AF. The study was published online last year in the journal Europace.

A key point is that patients took part in a formal weight-loss program. If you need help with weight management, talk with your doctor. It’s vital that you make healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes, rather than turning to a fad diet.