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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

BU Finds Smoking, Alcohol Consumption Increase Lifetime Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

Lifetime risk is a useful method to quantify risk of atrial fibrillation over a person’s lifetime. However, data are scarce with respect to the lifetime risk of atrial fibrillation in the presence of one or multiple risk factors such as obesity and smoking.

Now, a new study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers found that among individuals aged 55 years or older, the overall lifetime risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) was 37 percent and was influenced by the burden of risk factors.

The study was published in The BMJ.

“We examined the lifetime risk of atrial fibrillation, which measures the cumulative risk of developing a disease during the remainder of an individual’s life,” says co-author Dr. Ludovic Trinquart, assistant professor of biostatistics at BUSPH. “It is essential to look at lifetime risks in addition to short-term risks, because it may enable early identification of individuals at higher long-term risk and facilitate lifestyle change counseling.”

The researchers assessed 5,338 participants from the Framingham Heart Study who did not have atrial fibrillation at one or more of the index ages of 55, 65, and 75 years. They identified smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index, blood pressure, diabetes, and history of myocardial infarction or heart failure at an index age as risk factors. Then, they categorized risk factor burdens as optimal (all risk factors were optimal), elevated (at least one risk factor elevated), and borderline, and compared the lifetime risk estimates according to those levels of risk factor burden.

Risk factors present at index age 55 years considerably influenced lifetime risk. An optimal risk factor profile was associated with a lifetime risk of atrial fibrillation of 23 percent. Lifetime risk rose to about 34 percent in individuals borderline risk profile, and to 38 percent in individuals with an elevated risk factor.

Read more about the study.