Recent Blog Articles

Heart Health

Avoiding atrial fibrillation

July 12, 2020

How maintaining a healthy weight and other lifestyle habits can help prevent this common heart rhythm disorder.

During a bout of atrial fibrillation, your heart may beat so rapidly, it may feel as though it's going to explode out of your chest. Commonly known as afib, this heart rhythm problem can leave you breathless and lightheaded—or cause no symptoms at all. About 9% of people ages 65 and older have afib, which raises the risk of stroke and other heart-related problems. But there are ways to lower your odds of developing afib—or to reduce its impact if you already have the condition.

Lessen your load

By far, the most important step you can take is to attain and stay at a healthy weight. "We have good evidence from multiple studies showing that people who are overweight have a higher risk of afib than people who are at a healthy weight," says Harvard professor of medicine Dr. Christine Albert, former director of the Center for Arrhythmia Prevention at Brigham and Women's Hospital. And the more you weigh, the higher your risk: people who are overweight have a 20% to 25% higher risk, whereas those who are obese (a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher) have a 60% higher risk.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.