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Researchers compared more than 25,800 obese people who had weight-loss (bariatric) surgery with more than 13,700 obese people who tried to lose weight through a program of major lifestyle changes. Both groups had no history of heart failure.
Four years after the start of treatment, the weight-loss surgery group had lost more weight, had a nearly 50 percent lower risk of heart failure, and had lower rates of heart rhythm problems, diabetes and high blood pressure than the lifestyle-changes group, the findings showed.
Both groups had similar rates of heart attack and death, according to the study, which was scheduled for presentation Monday at the American Heart Association (AHA) annual meeting, in New Orleans.
"Our study shows an association between obesity and heart failure, and offers support for efforts to prevent and treat obesity aggressively, including the use of bariatric surgery," senior author Dr. Johan Sundstrom said in an AHA news release.
"Bariatric surgery might affect the incidence of atrial fibrillation, diabetes and hypertension -- known risk factors of heart failure -- explaining the lower risk of heart failure we observed," added Sundstrom, who is a professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Sundstrom noted that while the study found that heart failure risk was lower in patients who lost more weight, it does not prove that obesity causes heart failure.
In addition, because the study participants were all from a Scandinavian population, it is unclear whether the findings would relate to a U.S. population, the authors noted in the news release.
Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 14, 2016