#358 Does Losing Weight Help Atrial Fibrillation?

Does Losing Weight Help Atrial Fibrillation?

Being overweight is directly linked to your chances of developing atrial fibrillation (AFib). Additionally, carrying extra weight makes AFib more likely to worsen over time. This is because the excess weight may cause scarring to the heart muscle resulting in damage to the electrical system of the heart.

Furthermore, weighing more than you should may lead to other health conditions such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or diabetes, all of which also contribute to AFib. Even if you have had a successful ablation, our research has shown that without getting your weight in check, there is a higher chance that AFib will come back.

In this article, I’ll share the good news about optimizing your weight in the treatment of AFib. I’ll also provide the latest weight loss recommendations for AFib based on the atrial fibrillation treatment guidelines.

How Powerful is Weight Loss for AFib?

The good news is that shedding the extra weight can have profound effects on your heart, as well as on other conditions like high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or diabetes. My good friend, Dr. Prash Sanders, has shown in his research that for patients who are overweight with a BMI of 27 or higher, dropping 10% of their weight could lead to a 6-fold decrease in their AFib episodes! To put this in perspective, it means that someone overweight at 200 pounds would need a 20-pound weight loss to reduce their AFib attacks by six times.

Not sure about your BMI? Here is a link to an online BMI calculator to check if your BMI is 27 or higher.

Losing Weight with AFib is Hard

I know from firsthand experience that losing weight is hard. As described in our best-selling book, “The Longevity Plan,” I was overweight and had many medical problems that all started in my early forties. As part of our experiment for this book, 12 years ago, I lost 30 pounds to get my weight where it needed to be.

To achieve this weight loss, I had to track every bite of food and every workout. Over the last 12 years, I have tried multiple times to stop tracking every bite and every workout. Sadly, every time I stop, I quickly regain about 10 pounds in a month. Even to this day, after tracking my food and workouts so carefully for 12 years, I still regained 7 pounds of the 30 I lost.

For my AFib patients, it can be even worse. Many cannot drop the weight because they feel so poorly from their AFib. For others, every time they exercise, their hearts will go back into AFib. And for these patients who can’t seem to get anywhere with their AFib, catheter ablation of their AFib has often allowed them to get their lives back.

The Latest AFib Guidelines on Weight Loss

Based on the compelling research by my friend, Dr. Sanders, the AFib Guidelines now recommend that people with AFib and a BMI of 27 or higher should lose 10% of their body weight if possible. So, for a 300-pound person with AFib, they should lose 10% of 300 pounds, which would be a 30-pound weight loss. Also, this weight loss should be maintained, as our experience has shown that yo-yo dieting can often make AFib worse. For individuals with AFib whose BMI is below 27, there is currently no clear evidence that losing weight will help with their AFib.

How Do You Lose the Weight and Keep it Off?

As everyone is different, there is no one right path for everyone. For some, programs such as Weight Watchers can be incredibly helpful. The key is that it can’t be a diet because diets don’t work in the long run. It has to be lifestyle changes that you can maintain for the rest of your life to keep the weight off forever. For those looking to learn more, here are two articles I have written: How to Lose 100 Pounds.  The 5 Easiest Ways to Lose Weight.

About the Photo

Over the past weekend, my daughter participated in a gymnastics competition in San Diego. During our stay, we took the opportunity to go on several extended runs along the beach. Here is a photo captured during one of our runs at Solana Beach.


The information provided in this blog article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of information presented in this article. The author and the website assume no responsibility for any actions taken or not taken based on the content of this article.





Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

  1. Love your newsletter – very informative. It is helpful to have your specific ideas about fish oil and Vitamin D supplements. Thank you for keeping us informed! Really love all of the photos…the moose one was so awesome!