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Atrial fibrillation linked to increased blood pressure, risk of cardiovascular diseases

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia – a disorder where the person has an irregular heartbeat – and it is growing worldwide. Atrial fibrillation raises the risk of stroke by nearly four times and is associated with a higher risk of death. However, at the moment it is unclear whether atrial fibrillation is associated with a higher risk of other cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease or peripheral vascular disease (clots in the leg).

In a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers at The George Institute UK have examined the relationship between blood pressure and atrial fibrillation, and the relationship between atrial fibrillation and the development of cardiovascular disease in a cohort of 4.3 million adults in the United Kingdom.

“We found that higher blood pressure was linked to a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation; a 20 mm Hg higher systolic blood pressure increased the risk of atrial fibrillation by 21%,” said Connor Emdin, one of the researchers in the study.

“Furthermore, we also found that atrial fibrillation without appropriate antithrombotic therapies was associated with four times the risk of heart failure, three times the risk of ischemic stroke, and a 150% higher risk of heart disease, as well as higher risks of peripheral vascular disease and kidney disease.”

Study co-author Kazem Rahimi said: “These findings mean that people with atrial fibrillation are at a higher risk of a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases, and should be treated more aggressively for cardiovascular disease prevention. They also show the importance of people with atrial fibrillation using antithrombotic therapies like warfarin to reduce their risk of cardiovascular complications.”

Other researchers involved the study were Simon Anderson, Reza Khorshidi, Mark Woodward, Stephen MacMahon, and Terrence Dwyer.