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Elevated birth weight linked to increased risk of AF

According to a study presented at the virtual 31st Great Wall International Congress of Cardiology (19–25 October), elevated birth weight is associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) later in life. Dr Songzan Chen (Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China) and colleagues found that participants with a birth weight that was 482g (about 1 standard deviation) above the average (3,397 grams) were 30% more likely to develop AF (odds ratio [OR] = 1.30; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.18–1.44; p=0.0000004).

Chen et al conducted a naturally randomised controlled trial using a technique called Mendelian randomisation. First, they used data from 321,223 individuals in a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify 132 genetic variants associated with birth weight. Next, they identified which of those variants play a role in AF using data from 537,409 participants of the Atrial Fibrillation Consortium (of whom 55,114 had atrial fibrillation and 482,295 did not).

To conduct the naturally randomised controlled trial, the 132 genetic variants were randomly allocated to the 537,409 participants at conception, giving each individual a birth weight in grams. The investigators then analysed the association between birth weight and AF. They found that elevated birth weight was associated with an increased risk of AF later in life. Specifically, participants with a birth weight that was 482g (about 1 standard deviation) above the average (3,39g) were 30% more likely to develop the heart rhythm disorder (OR = 1.30; 95% CI 1.18–1.44; p=0.0000004).

Dr Chen said: “Our results suggest that the risk of AF in adulthood may be higher for large newborns (over 4,000g or 8lbs 13oz) than those with normal birth weight. Preventing elevated birth weight could be a novel way to avoid atrial fibrillation in offspring—for example with a balanced diet and regular check-ups during pregnancy, particularly for women who are overweight, obese or have diabetes. People born with a high weight should adopt a healthy lifestyle to lower their likelihood of developing the heart rhythm disorder.”

Professor Michel Komajda, a Past President of the ESC and Global Affairs regional Ambassador for Asia at GW-ICC 2020, said: “AF is a devastating illness that causes avoidable strokes if left untreated. We know that people with unhealthy lifestyles are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, and risk can be lowered through physical activity and keeping body weight under control. This study is a welcome addition to our knowledge about how to prevent atrial fibrillation.”

GW-ICC 2020 is a virtual meeting during 19 to 25 October. Faculty from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) will participate in joint scientific sessions with the GW-ICC as part of the ESC Global Activities programme.

Save the date! The Global AF Aware Week (16 - 22 November), organised by AF Association, brings attention to AF (the most common type of heart rhythm disorder). Our Prevent, Detect, Protect, Correct, and Perfect campaign aims to easily detect AF with a simple 30-second pulse check - preventing  AF-related stroke or heart failure. 



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