How Pharmacists Can Counsel Overweight Afib Patients


Losing weight can help decrease the recurrence of atrial fibrillation in overweight patients.

Losing weight can help decrease the recurrence of atrial fibrillation in overweight patients.

Researchers from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute recently conducted a study focusing on the relationship between atrial fibrillation and weight loss.

One of the researchers, Jared Bunch, MD, medical director of heart rhythm services for the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, told Pharmacy Times that pharmacists could be a good resource for weight-loss counseling for patients with atrial fibrillation.

His first piece of advice for pharmacists was to encourage patients to maintain a diet full of fruits and vegetables and without processed foods.

Second, “exercise at least 30 minutes a day and at least 60 if weight loss is desired,” Dr. Bunch said. “…Through the day, people need to make decisions to be more active, stand more, take the stairs, and walk farther to really improve their long-term health.”

Dr. Bunch and his colleagues examined more than 400 patients who underwent ablation procedures in order to lose weight.

The research team separated the participants into 3 categories: those who lost 3% of their body weight, those who maintained body weight, and those who gained 3% of their body weight.

The patients who maintained their body weight or gained weight were more likely to experience atrial fibrillation recurrence compared with those who lost weight in the study.

The patients who initially lost weight but then gained it back had the highest risk for atrial fibrillation recurrence.

“Healthy lifestyle choices need to focus on maintaining a normal weight through maintaining muscle mass, exercise, minimizing long period of sedentary activities, and eating a healthy diet. Excessive weight loss is not helpful when considering all heart-related risks,” Dr. Bunch told Pharmacy Times. “ In choosing lifestyle changes, it is very important to make those choices that can be done consistently over a long period of time. We found those that can sustain their efforts can modify their risks significantly.”

The findings from this study were presented at the 2015 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in November 2015.

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