ORLANDO – Results from a large Danish epidemiologic study published in 2017 upended the traditional view that obesity directly contributes to new onset atrial fibrillation by instead fingering lean body mass as the key body-habitus culprit.
“It’s a very different way of thinking about obesity” and it’s relationship to the etiology of atrial fibrillation, Stanley Nattel, MD, said in a video interview at the annual International AF Symposium. “I wouldn’t qualify it yet as a complete shift,” because the results came from a single study, “but the results are quite persuasive and very interesting,” said Dr. Nattel, professor of medicine and director of the electrophysiology research program at the Montreal Heart Institute.
The study he cited tracked the incidence of atrial fibrillation during median of 17 years in more than 55,000 Danish people who were aged 50-64 years old at baseline, and showed that lean body mass was the predominant anthropometric risk factor for new-onset atrial fibrillation (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017 May;69:2488-97). When the article appeared, it was accompanied by an editorial written by Dr. Nattel (J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017 May;692498-501).
“People had not thought a lot in the past” about lean body mass and atrial fibrillation, he noted.
If the finding is confirmed, it might make sense to target screening for atrial fibrillation to people with higher levels of lean body mass, Dr. Nattel suggested.