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Member Research and Reports

Minnesota: Estimating Undiagnosed Abnormal Heart Rhythm Cases in Older Adults

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a type of abnormal heart rhythm that is linked to higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke. A risk factor for AF is increasing age, however, it is unclear how many older adults likely have the condition. 

A new study led by recent University of Minnesota School of Public Health graduate Mary Rooney, examined the prevalence of undiagnosed AF in thousands of older adults.

The findings were published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology.

To learn more about AF’s prevalence, the researchers studied 2,616 people participating in the ongoing Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study who were ages 74-84 and had never been diagnosed with the condition. The participants were invited to wear a device that could monitor their heart rhythm continuously for two weeks. A subsample of people were asked to wear another device for a total of four weeks of monitoring.

The study found:

“AF is often thought of as an all or nothing condition, but there is growing appreciation for understanding how much AF that a person experiences,” said Dr. Rooney. ”Many people may have AF episodes once in a while, while others may continuously have them. Now, we need to understand the medical implications of detecting subclinical AF.”

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