Adult obesity rates in the U.S. are on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that almost 40 percent of the adult population is obese — that’s about 93 million U.S. citizens. And, a new study published by The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that about half of the adult population will be obese by 2030. The obesity rate in Florida is 30.7 percent.

Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat, is a potential side effect of heart disease and other factors associated with obesity like a sedentary lifestyle. Now, a 2019 study shows that obesity may also interfere with AFib medications.

What is AFib?

AFib occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart, known as the atria, beat erratically. That puts them out of sync with the beating of the lower chambers, the ventricles.

Treatment from AFib is typically drug therapy, including sodium channel blockers like:

  • Quinidine
  • Procainamide
  • Flecainide
  • Propafenone

How Weight Impacts AFib Medications

The 2019 study followed patients from the University of Illinois listed on the Chicago AFib registry. What they found was a recurrence rate of 30 percent in obese patients who take sodium channel blockers compared to only a 6 percent recurrence rate for those with a healthy weight.

It’s critical information because those with obesity already have a significant risk of AFib. Interestingly, the study authors found that 50 percent of those listed in the Chicago AFib registry were also obese.

What are the Other Choices for Treatment?

Sodium channel blockers are just one option for the treatment of AFib. The study team found that potassium channel blockers were better options for obese patients with AFib. Potassium also plays a vital role in muscle contraction.

If medication does not effectively restore your heart rhythm, or you are ineligible for medicated treatment, your doctor may suggest procedural treatment options. These include such options as catheter ablation, pacemakers, the WATCHMAN Device, cryoablation, defibrillators, and more.  

Why is Managing AFib Important?

Untreated AFib puts you at risk for stroke and heart failure. You should contact a doctor if you experience any side effects such as:


  • Palpitations
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

If you or a loved one are living with a heart rhythm disorder such as atrial fibrillation, contact Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. today. Our team of EP doctors have been serving patients in Sarasota and the surrounding cities including Port Charlotte, Venice, Tampa, and Sun City Center for over a decade.

About Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A.

The experienced electrophysiologists of Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. have been serving West Florida including Sarasota, Venice, Tampa, Port Charlotte, and Sun City Center for over 15 years. Our specialty cardiologists, or EP doctors, help patients manage their abnormal heart rhythm conditions, whether they suffer from arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation (AFib), or other irregular heartbeats. Dr. Dilip J. Mathew, Dr. Antonio Moretta, and Dr. Rajesh Malik perform arrhythmia treatments like cardiac ablation, cryoablation, and implanting pacemakers or defibrillators. Dr. Mathew has performed nearly 5,000 complex cardiac ablations. View our office locations in Sarasota and Venice, Florida.