Does losing weight help if you're normal weight?

I've had permanent afib for 10 years now, rate controlled with metoprolol and diltiazem. You always read that afib incidence and severity can be reduced if obese people with afib would lose 10% of their body weight. But would it be helpful for a normal weight person to lose weight, in order to improve the health impact of afib? My reasoning is that any weight loss would put less stress on the heart, and should be helpful for afib symptoms like occasional tiredness and mild shortness of breath. My BMI is about 22.2 (5'11", 158 pounds, male, 64 years old, exercise a couple of hours daily). If I dropped 16 pounds -- 10% of my body weight -- would I only be thinner, or would I feel better? Theoretically, I mean. Thanks!

26 Replies

  • When I was first diagnosed with AF I was a little overweight but not massively I was very fit and active, I became unwell very quickly and the medication prescribed slowed me to a standstill, I gained a considerable amount of weight, I had my ablation 18months ago and I've lost 3 stone since. However that has not stopped the AF returning with a vengeance. I'm not sure being overweight is that much of a factor. The EP certainly doesn't think so, he told me that the plumbing of my heart is fine, no blockages and no wastage. It's the electrics that's caused the AF. My mum also had AF and she was tiny, five foot tall and barely 6 stone. If you lost 10% of your body weight it would take you to just below the very bottom of the bmi scale and being underweight according to WHO is as big a health risk factor as being overweight. Don't believe everything the fat police tell you.

  • Thank you!

  • I for one find that an impossible question to answer.

    There are so many factors - you are focusing on weight only - you sound as though you are quite fit and me thinks a very proactive person so the only suggestion is maybe look at your diet content. Some people in PAF, not persistent as far as I know, have found an improvement in symptoms by moving to low animal protein, high vegetable diet and seen significant improvement.

  • Very good idea, thank you.

  • Interesting question. At HRC yesterday we were told that reducing BMI in obese people can help reduce the incident of AF as well as providing better general health. In fact Matt Fay suggested that people with AF actually lived longer than many without because they took steps to improve their diet and life style. I'm no expert but have we not enough problems with people starving themselves into other health problems? If one is "normal" then I think one needs to be more proactive about improving diet, eating more heart healthy foods and increasing exercise where possible than looking only at BMI or weight. If a side effect of that is reduced weight then fine but do remember that muscle weighs more than fat. Only personal opinion of course.


  • Sounds very reasonable to me. Thanks!

  • I have a friend who is 92 and thriving. Six years ago she was taken very ill with an intestinal problem. She was unable to eat properly for several months and lost 30lbs in weight. Fortunately she had 30lbs to lose. She was very thin by the time she returned home. I am convinced that she would have died if she had not had that cushion.

    If you are a normal weight then do not try to lose any.

  • Thank you jennydog.

  • Professor Prash Sanders, author of the LEGACY study which is often quoted in relation to weight loss and reduction of AF burden, asked me to keep my BMI at a max of 25 - he gave no encouragement for anything much lower than that

    All the best


  • And there's evidence that older people who are slightly overweight actually live longer than those with normal BMIs. Professor Sanders is a hugely credible source for sure. Thank you.

  • There's also evidence that people who are underweight live longer.

  • My BMI was around 22 when my GP said I needed statins for my cholesterol - which was 5.3!! I declined statins and set about reducing the level to 4 - a side effect of which was weight loss of 20lb over a 5 month period - BMI now down to 20.

    In all honesty, I don't feel one jot better than before, except with my appearance perhaps but I assume that the load on my heart is somewhat reduced by the weight loss and cholesterol lowering. I don't think my energy levels have improved as I still have intermittent tiredness and heavy legs which I blame on Bisoprolol and Flecainide as well as the underlying condition.

    It has to be a personal decision but I certainly wouldn't starve or follow fad diets. My weight went down because of foregoing croissants, lashings of butter, French cheeses and other fat lovelies and replacing them permanently with healthy fats, more fish, vegs and fruit.

  • Thanks for sharing your personal experience with weight loss. I'd love to hear that you were more peppy and full of energy at your new BMI of 20, but it doesn't seem that you were. Oh well, at least I have a good excuse for staying at the same weight now. Thank you.

  • This must violate some sort of PC rule, but as an anglophile, it cheers me up just to read British expression such as "lashings of butter." :)

  • Doubtful. BMI of 22 is where you want to be. Thin men who exercise a great deal are another phenotype for AFib. Please read the blog of Dr John Mandrola about his journey with competitive bicycle racing and AFib.

  • Thank you for the reference. I was already aware of marathon runners and increased incidence to Afib, so this fits right in to the puzzle. Thank you.

  • Oops, need a grammar checker. That should read "increased incidence OF Afib . . ."

  • I'd call myself Mr Average and I'm 2" shorter than you, and nearly 2 stone heavier (I'm 65.1/2). I'd say I need to loose a stone but if I were your weight I'd be thinking I'm too thin already, let alone loosing any more!

    I suppose it depends on your build as well?


  • Good point! My high school wrestling and (American) football weight was about 180 pounds, so I am about 20 pounds lighter at age 64. On the other hand, I don't have the musculature I used to have back then; so I should be lighter, in order to stay at normal weight.

  • I read that we don't need to be any heavier than we were in our late adolescence ( say around 19 years old).

    I am the same age as you but about 2" taller. My BMI was 25 when I was diagnosed with PAF but is now 21.5 and I am now the same weight as I was aged 20.

    The number of my AF episodes has decreased significantly (none since March) but whether this related to just weight or a combination of all the actions I have taken is impossible to say. Also, I still get very tired in the evenings (but this is probably due to the bisoprolol)

    There are a few downsides to the weight loss. My wife is always complaining about the way I look (scraggy neck etc), I have lost some muscular strength and I can't sit down for long periods on a hard seat (not enough padding in the buttocks area!).

    If I ever start drinking beer again, things may change.

  • That's interesting, because I have some of the same issues. My wife, too, complains that I already look too skinny (for most of my adult life, I was 25 or 30 pounds heavier). I used to be able to bench press 250 pounds (25 years ago), but would have trouble benching a wet chicken today! And also, my butt hurts when seated too long on a hard bench. Unlike you, though, I have forced myself (ha, ha!) to have a beer or two daily. Just for the cardiac benefits, you understand!

  • Many years ago I was at a conference with a renowned expert on ageing, who told me that the key to long life was to maintain adolescent weight. I'm afraid that these days, it is assumed that most people are overweight, so the advice given is generally aimed at those who are! By the way, I am 66 and weigh just 5 pounds over my adolescent weight (even though I have been on steroids for PMR/GCA for a year), and my mother is 99 next month and has always been slim.

  • My husband had a stroke a year ago because of Afib and lost about 20 pounds since then. He was not overweight to begin with and is now slightly underweight with a real challenge to put on some weight. I think the loss of weight has hurt him. He seems to have more of an appetite back since his two cyroablations two weeks ago. If you are at a normal weight level with the BMI you have mentioned, you should be happy to stay where you are.

  • My thoughts, and I am not medically qualified is that you ought to check with your pharmacist first and then your GP. It is not just straight bmi but also medicines that you are on. In addition you should be checked as to what your personal bmi should be. The "standard" method works for the vast majority of the population (I seem to recall 90% to 95% but not all. Four or so years ago I was checked out at a health fair at a major employers and I think that the test they did was called something like a bone density and water content tests. I was told that for ME I should be aiming for a bmi of 30 to 31 (I think) and not 27.

    As has been raised above what are the health risks of being under weight????

  • This isn't research, but as a thin Type II diabetic with AF history and numerous other health complications, I would pick a healthy regular weight and strength any day.

  • I think that more than loose weight is about control wich tipe of food we ingest. have to try to find what kind of food keep you relaxed and keep relax your heart I find vegetables exellents for the goal with few meat ..try to boiling your food steam it , monitor your blood pressure daily and find the food that keep it down an Oximeter and monitor your heart

    try to find wich food keep your heart at lower heart rate...avoid junk, drink plenty water eat well

    and walk at list 1 hour a day.

    good luck.

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