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Obesity in Young Women Doubles Chance of A-Fib

Report by Lynn Haye, March 3, 2013

A 2012 Danish study found that obese, fertile younger women had a 2 to 3-fold higher risk of developing A-Fib than their normal weight counterparts. Previously it was unknown whether obesity increased the risk of A-Fib in young people without other risk factors.  This study adjusted for other risk factors while analyzing the effect of weight on the development of new-onset A-Fib. These findings suggest that strategies to promote weight loss may also decrease the burden of A-Fib.

The study employed the use of the Body Mass Index (see formula below) to categorize the women according to weight. For example, a 5’4” woman would have the following BMI calculations:

Normal18.5-24.9108-145 lbs.
Overweight 25-29.9146-174 lbs.
Obese30-35175-204 lbs.
Very obese>35>204 lbs.

Statistical analysis revealed a hazard ratio of 2.04 in the obese women or a 2-fold greater risk than normal weight women of developing A-Fib. A hazard ratio 3.50 in the very obese women showed an even greater 3-fold risk of developing A-Fib compared to normal weight women.  These findings were significant and add another potential risk factor for ‘Lone A-Fib’.

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Obesity & increased the risk of A-Fib in young females?

This was a unique study that analyzed the data from a national Danish Registry.  The research identified 271,203 women (aged 20-50, mean age of 30.6 years) from a nationwide register of childbirths and hospitalizations in Denmark. The women had all given birth between 2004 – 2009 and did not have prior histories of A-Fib.

The women were followed for an average of 4.6 years during which time 110 were hospitalized for first-time A-Fib.  Due to the nature of the data base, the investigators were able to adjust for age, comorbidities, hyperthyroidism, smoking status, pharmacotherapy and previous use of beta-blockers during pregnancy.  However, they were unable to adjust for either alcohol use or diagnoses of sleep apnea either at baseline or during follow-up.

The primary researcher, Dr. Deniz Karasoy, concluded that; “….obesity increases the risk of new-onset atrial fibrillation in seemingly healthy fertile women.”  He states that; “Dietary modifications combined with physical exercise are warranted in obese fertile women to decrease their risk of atrial fibrillation.”

BMI Formula
English BMI = Weight in Pounds / ( Height in inches x Height in inches )  x 703
MetricBMI = Weight in Kilograms / ( Height in Meters x Height in Meters )

For more about Women’s Health and Atrial Fibrillation, see Women with A-Fib: Mother Nature and Gender Bias.

References for this Article
(A special thanks to David Holzman for calling our attention to this article and its importance.)

Karasoy, D., et al. Obesity triggers AF in fertile women. 2012 ESC Congress/Munich. Press release of 26 Aug 2012 Presentation. European Society of Cardiology. Last accessed March 5, 2013. URL:

Photo of Lynn Haye, PhD

Lynn Haye, PhD

LYNN HAYE, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and former A-Fib patient. She studies and writes about current trends in the treatment and diagnosis of atrial fibrillation and has a special interest in women’s health issues. Dr. Haye and her family live in Orange County, CA.

Last updated: Sunday, May 28, 2017

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