Between high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, it may feel like excess weight is a risk factor for many of the most common health conditions. So, is atrial fibrillation just another health condition to add to the list? Well, not quite. To better understand the AFib—weight connection, let's take a closer look at what this condition actually is.
What is AFib?
Just think, with every heartbeat, your body is able to receive oxygen-rich blood, which is literally essential to function. Your heartbeat may not always be consistent, though, and when this occurs it’s known as a heart arrhythmia.
As the most common type of arrhythmia, AFib occurs when the electrical impulses in your heart become irregular or chaotic. The real danger with AFib isn’t just having an irregular heartbeat; it’s actually the many heart-related complications you may also experience. These include blood clots, stroke and heart failure.
What causes AFib?
Unfortunately, preventing AFib isn’t as simple as just avoiding one cause, like having excess weight. There are a wide range of factors that can increase your risk, these include:
· Being older than 60 years of age
· Having diabetes
· Having high blood pressure
· Experiencing other heart conditions (e.g., heart attacks, heart disease and heart failure)
· Being overweight
· Having chronic sleep issues
· Lung disease
While some of these risk factors are out of your control, there are a few key risk factors, like excess weight, that you can minimize. To really understand the link between weight and AFib, let’s take a closer look at why extra pounds can increase your risk.
With excess weight…
High blood pressure is more likely. Oftentimes, extra weight spells extra work for your heart. That’s because any additional fat tissue in your body requires oxygen-rich blood, just like the rest of your body. In turn, your heart must pump more blood, which is added wear and tear on your arteries.
Sleep apnea is more likely. Getting a good night’s sleep can be difficult regardless of weight, but extra weight only adds to this. Because excess weight can cause restricted breathing, this impacts your ability to sleep soundly. Over time, a lack of sleep can spike blood pressure and inflammation, both of which are hard on your heart.
Diabetes is more likely. It is estimated that nearly 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. This is due to the fact that excess weight impacts your body’s ability to properly regulate blood sugar levels. High blood glucose levels can cause damage to your blood vessels, nerves and heart.
Inflammation is more likely. While low-grade, chronic inflammation is often associated with allergies and arthritis, it may play a surprising role in heart health. It is believed that excess fat tissue, as well as plaque build-up in arteries can both cause an inflammatory response which impacts your heart’s normal function.
Could you have AFib?
With GMC’s innovative AFib program, you can receive customized care—from diagnosis to treatment—without skipping a beat. To get you and your heart back in rhythm, GMC offers hands-on care from experienced, board-certified electrophysiologists and a dedicated cardiac team, along with two state-of-the-art EP labs.
Now that you know some of the key facts about AFib, would you know it if you had it? To learn more about GMC’s AFib program and hear directly from our knowledgeable experts, RSVP to our upcoming free AFib Informational Breakfast.