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Does a Big Belly Cause AFib?

Obesity rates in America are skyrocketing. As a country, we are fatter than ever. Meanwhile, atrial fibrillation is also on the rise. Coincidence? AFib is one of the most common heart rhythm disorders, affecting millions of people worldwide and frequently coexisting with obesity.

How does weight impact AFib?

A study published in the Journal of American College and Cardiology suggests that obesity can cause an irregular heart rate.  In fact, obesity doubles the risk of AFib. Extra fat around the middle of the body is hard on the heart. Another study published in the BMJ Journals found that a five percent weight gain increases AFib risk by 13 percent.

Typically, the upper chambers of the heart function as a natural pacemaker. They send out an electrical signal to the lower chambers or ventricles. Obesity changes these electrical signals. Eventually, the left ventricle, or the heart’s main pumping chamber, becomes damaged.

Being overweight also leads to other health issues that increase your risk of developing AFib, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation — the root cause of most disease   

The bottom line: Being overweight stresses the entire body — including the heart.

Excess weight increases your chances of developing severe health conditions that lead to AFib. But fear not, there is a natural approach to reducing or eliminating AFib, and it begins with weight loss.  

Will losing weight stop my AFib?

A study from the Journal of American College and Cardiology suggests that obesity and AFib often go hand-in-hand. But here’s the good news. Losing even a small amount of weight and keeping it off can significantly improve heart rhythm and quality of life. 

The study found that patients who lost over 10 percent of their body weight had a greater chance of living AFib-free than those who did not. They also experienced less fatigue and shortness of breath. 

What’s more, maintaining a healthy weight may even prevent or delay the development of AFib. But again, the key is weight management. It seems that those whose weight fluctuates are more likely to experience irregular heartbeats.

Why is obesity a risk factor for AFib?

Did you know that there is a vicious cycle between obesity and inflammation? Extra weight equals excessive inflammation. Excessive inflammation triggers AFib.

Research from the journal Nature Review Cardiology suggests a link between inflammation and its immune response and AFib. Meanwhile, conditions related to AFib are also linked to low-grade inflammation. It’s vital to get your inflammation under control now. One of the best ways to do this is through proper nutrition — which ultimately leads to weight loss.

Both obesity and AFib are linked to heart disease, sleep disorders, and diabetes. Losing those extra pounds could protect your heart and keep AFib under control. 

Tackling obesity and AFib

Losing weight is not easy. It takes dedication, perseverance, and may require you to overcome and replace unhealthy habits such as lack of physical activity and sleep, stress, and poor nutritional choices.

Lack of physical activity contributes to weight gain

Moving is essential for good health and weight loss. Being active has numerous benefits. It can:

  • Regulate metabolism and weight
  • Improve mental health
  • Enhance cardiovascular health
  • Boost energy
  • Encourage better sleep
  • Reduce stress

When you have AFib, the idea of exercising can be scary. Start slow with five to 10 minutes of walking each day. Ultimately, your goal is 30 minutes of activity per day, five days per week. To get a good workout, breathe a little faster, sweat a little, and increase your heart rate.

Bad sleep habits lead to weight gain

A study published in the HeartRhythm Journal found that poor-quality sleep, which includes waking during the night, increases your risk of developing AFib.

Research suggests that the less you sleep, the more likely you are to be obese. This is partly due to the hormones released during sleep that control appetite — ghrelin and leptin. Not enough sleep also leads to daytime fatigue, which means you’ll exercise less.

To improve sleep, go to bed in a cool, dark room, unplug electronics at least an hour before bed, follow the same sleep schedule daily, avoid nighttime snacking, and go to bed as soon after sundown as possible.

Chronic stress leads to weight gain

When you’re under stress, psychological and hormonal factors are at play. Cortisol (the stress hormone) rises, increasing appetite and making you crave sugary carbs. Chronic stress leads to elevated cortisol levels, which stimulates your appetite full-time, resulting in weight gain.

Managing stress may seem overwhelming, but adopting healthy habits such as journaling, exercising, deep breathing, meditation, and spending time in nature helps regulate your stress and anxiety levels.

Poor nutritional choices lead to weight gain

The traditional government food pyramid is not your best resource for healthy eating. It recommends excessive grain, dairy, and other inflammatory foods. The western diet is one of the unhealthiest in the world, loaded with fast junk food and lacking in whole foods and healthy fats.

Nutritional tips for Afib

If you aim to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight and reverse your AFib, ditch the standard American diet and adopt the 100 Year Heart Diet.

The 100 Year Heart Diet includes whole, organic foods like lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. This diet lowers inflammation, boosts blood flow, increases oxygen and energy uptake in cells, stabilizes and strengthens cellular membranes, normalizes heart rhythm, and helps you lose weight.

Next steps

Obesity is one of the major triggers for AFib, and it is clear from the research that losing even a little weight can make a tremendous difference. We know how hard it can be to get started on a weight loss journey, so we have developed tools to help you succeed. Schedule a free health coaching call to see how we can help you claim your 100 Year Heart.

Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well 

Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD

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