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Elevated Risk Factors Linked to Atrial Fibrillation

Maintaining optimal risk profile and primary prevention strategies could halve the a-fib burden

TUESDAY, March 29 (HealthDay News) -- More than half the burden of atrial fibrillation (AF) results from having one or more elevated cardiovascular risk factors and is theoretically preventable, according to a study published online March 28 in Circulation.

Rachel R. Huxley, D.Phil., from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues evaluated whether maintaining an optimal risk profile would avoid the burden of AF. Previously established AF risk factors (hypertension, increased body mass index, diabetes, smoking, and prior cardiac disease) were measured in 1,598 members of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study cohort. Participants were categorized into groups according to optimal, borderline, and elevated levels, and were followed up for an average of 17.1 years.

The researchers identified 1,520 cases of incident AF. The highest age adjusted incidence rates were found in white men, and the lowest in black women (7.45 and 6.67 per 1,000 person years, respectively). Optimal risk profile prevalence was 5.4 percent, and it varied from 10 percent in white women to 1.6 percent in black men. Having one or more elevated risk factor accounted for 56.5 percent of AF cases, with increased blood pressure the most important contributing factor.

"Maintaining an optimal risk profile would theoretically avoid more than half of the overall burden of AF. This study further reinforces the need for successful primary prevention strategies that enable individuals to adopt and maintain healthy diets and behavioral patterns as a means of reducing future cardiovascular risk," the authors write.

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