FRIDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight or obese
individuals who undergo a procedure to treat an irregular heartbeat
known as atrial fibrillation may see greater improvements in their
quality of life after the treatment than their thinner
The findings appear in the December edition of the journal
Atrial fibrilation (AF) greatly increases a person's risk for
stroke. Many people with AF are treated with medications to help
lower this risk. An alternative to medication, catheter ablation,
treats AF by placing a thin tube (catheter) in the heart and
burning off the tissue or pathways that are responsible for
In the study, 79 percent of 660 participants were overweight or
obese. The ablation procedure was equally successful at controlling
the AF in both thin and heavyset individuals, but those who were
obese and overweight showed greater gains in their quality of life.
They did report a lower quality of life before the procedure than
their thinner counterparts.
One year after the procedure, the overweight and obese
participants reported feeling they had fewer limitations due to
their physical health and emotional problems. They also reported
increased vitality and less anxiety and depression after the
procedure. By contrast, people with a normal body-mass index did
not show "substantial" improvements in their quality of life after
"We have some reassuring news for the obese population because we are reporting improvements in quality of life when they undergo ablation for AF," said study author Dr. Sanghamitra Mohanty, a cardiologist at St. David's Medical Center in Austin, Texas. "However, this paper does not attempt to trivialize the importance of weight control," she said. Obesity is also a risk factor for AF and other diseases.
The findings touch on the so-called "obesity paradox," a
phenomenon that shows that people who are obese may face a lower
risk of death and complications after certain procedures than their
thinner counterparts despite the known risks associated with the
Most people with AF are treated with medications to control the
abnormal heart rhythm and/or lower their risk for stroke. The new
study could not say whether obese or overweight people could also
expect a better quality of life if they are treated with medication
over ablation. There is no data on how many ablation procedures to
treat AF are performed yearly in the United States, but Mohanty and
colleagues do about 1,600 a year at St. David's Medical Center.
Ablation does have some pluses when it comes to treating AF,
said Dr. Robert Myerburg, a cardiology professor at the University
of Miami School of Medicine. "It is good for people who have failed
medication therapy, and does offer the hope of a permanent or near
permanent cure. It's not a last resort, but another option in the
treatment of AF."
As to the latest findings, "people who are obese and have
successful ablation have a better quality of life than who are not
obese," he said. They may have more to gain from the procedure in
the first place, he noted, adding that the findings may not hold
for people who are severely obese.
Learn how AF is treated at the
U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood
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