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Researchers Forecast Epidemic of Atrial Fibrillation

If incidence continues rising, nearly 16 million Americans could be affected by 2050

MONDAY, July 3 (HealthDay News) -- The incidence of atrial fibrillation has increased significantly since 1980. If the rate of increase continues, atrial fibrillation could become an epidemic affecting 15.9 million Americans by 2050, according to a study published online July 3 in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Teresa S.M. Tsang, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues studied 4,618 Olmsted County, Minn., adults who were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation between 1980 and 2000.

In 1980, the researchers found that the age-adjusted incidence of atrial fibrillation in Olmsted County was 3.04 per 1,000 person-years. By 2000, they found that the incidence had increased to 3.68, a relative increase of 12.6 percent over 21 years. They found no difference in incidence rates between men and women.

"Such an increase in age-adjusted incidence suggests a relatively conservative projection of a threefold increase in the number of persons with atrial fibrillation over the next 50 years," the authors conclude. "Aggressive intervention and primary prevention of reversible risk factors of atrial fibrillation are pivotal to contain this epidemic."

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