Obesity `disrupts heartbeats`, says a new study

Last Updated: Aug 17, 2011, 13:00 PM IST

Washington: Here`s yet another reason why you should shed the flab -- obesity disrupts heartbeat, says a new study.

Researchers at University of Adelaide, led by Dr Hany Abed, claim to have for the first time shown that obesity directly causes electrical abnormalities of the heart.

According to Dr Abed, there is growing evidence that obesity changes the structure and size of the heart muscle and the way it works and contracts, as well as its electrical function.

The latter leads to atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder in the world, affecting 10 per cent of people over 75 years of age.

"We already know that obesity causes an increase in blood pressure and puts strain on the heart. Current basic laboratory research using a sheep model also shows that obesity causes electrical abnormalities in the heart chamber," Dr Abed said.

He added: "It`s now more common to be admitted to hospital with atrial fibrillation than it`s for heart failure. The problem with atrial fibrillation is that it is usually picked up incidentally, in health check-ups, or when someone suffers dizzy spells, heart palpitations and chest pains.

"Unfortunately, often the first sign of this heart rhythm disorder is when someone has a stroke."

The researchers claim that while obesity is not restricted to an age group, those most at risk of atrial fibrillation - the elderly - are becoming fatter and therefore escalating their chances of developing the heart disorder.

"The costs to the health system and the community are enormous. However, early results in our research show that atrial fibrillation can be reversed if people lose weight," he said.

PTI