New research links obesity with heart rhythm disorder

Cardiologist and PhD candidate Dr Hany Abed says there is growing evidence that obesity changes the structure and size of the heart muscle and the way it works and contracts, as well as its electrical function.

The latter leads to atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder in the world, affecting 10% of people over 75 years of age.

Dr Abed is working with the University of Adelaide's Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders and the Discipline of Medicine to ascertain how obesity affects the heart and whether losing weight can actually reduce the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

"We already know that obesity causes an increase in blood pressure and puts strain on the heart. Current basic laboratory research using a sheep model also shows that obesity causes electrical abnormalities in the heart chamber," Dr Abed says.

The PhD student was last weekend awarded the prestigious Ralph Reader Young Investigator Award from the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand for his research.

Hospital admissions due to atrial fibrillation have more than tripled in Australia over the past 15 years with older, overweight men at most risk. The condition is also linked directly to strokes and heart attacks.