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November 24, 2004

Obesity and Atrial Fibrillation: Is One Epidemic Feeding the Other?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Clinical Electrophysiology Section, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY.

JAMA. 2004;292(20):2519-2520. doi:10.1001/jama.292.20.2519

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States; nearly 65% of the population is overweight and nearly 31% is obese.1 Similarly, atrial fibrillation (AF) is reaching epidemic proportions,2 with nearly 2.5 million Americans currently affected. As the population ages, it is estimated that by the year 2050 more than 5 million Americans will have AF.3 Obesity is clearly associated with increased prevalence of hypertension, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, left ventricular hypertrophy, left atrial enlargement, and congestive heart failure.4,5 In turn, hypertension, left atrial enlargement, and congestive heart failure are all thought to be important contributors to the development of AF.3,6 Recently, obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs in about 40% of obese individuals, has been found to be strongly associated with AF.7 Despite these biological links, a clear association between obesity and risk of AF has not been established.