Researchers discuss ways to reduce the risks associated with a common, but sometimes deadly, heart disorder — atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation is a common heart disease that causes an irregular heartbeat by interfering with the heart’s normal rhythm. This interferes with the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently around the body, which can lead to various heart-related complications. Although men are two times more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, women are more likely to suffer complications, such as stroke.
A short research news article, published in The BMJ, discussed the recent findings of a large European study that investigated the incidence of atrial fibrillation and its association with mortality and various modifiable risk factors such as body mass index (BMI) and the total cholesterol over a 12.6-year period. None of the 79,973 middle-aged participants, who were from communities in Denmark, Finland, Italy, and Sweden, had atrial fibrillation when the study began.
In keeping with previous studies, men were more likely to develop the condition than women and as expected, all cardiovascular risk factors (except for diabetes mellitus), previous heart problems such as myocardial infarction, high heart-failure biomarker levels, and a history of stroke were associated with new cases.
The prominent finding from this study showed that atrial fibrillation actually develops ten years earlier in men, with a sharp increase in new cases seen after the age of 50 years. In addition, a high BMI was the stand-out risk factor for men and this accounted for approximately half of all the risk factors combined. By contrast, a high total of cholesterol levels were associated with a lowered risk for this condition, particularly in women.
Researchers also found that atrial fibrillation was linked with a 3.5-fold increased risk of premature death in both men and women. It is therefore important that individuals, particularly men who are overweight or obese, monitor and control their weight to reduce their risk of developing atrial fibrillation and any associated health problems.
Fortunately, risk factors such as BMI and cholesterol levels can be modified by making simple lifestyle changes. The authors also hope that healthcare professionals can develop strategies around these factors to help prevent new cases.
Written by Natasha Tetlow, PhD
Mayor S. Men develop atrial fibrillation 10 years earlier than women, finds study. BMJ. [published online ahead of print October 16, 2017]. Available from: doi: 10.1136/bmj.j4802.