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New findings suggest hypertension is associated with atrial fibrillation

According to a study published in the Journal of Preventive Cardiology, genetic data indicate that hypertension (high blood pressure) is causally associated with atrial fibrillation (AF). A press release reports that previous studies have already shown an association between hypertension and the development of AF, but there was no strong evidence of direct causality.

To investigate whether blood pressure has a direct impact on the risk of AF, Dr Georgios Georgiopoulos (King’s College London, UK, and National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece) and colleagues conducted a naturally randomised controlled trial (Mendelian randomisation). They used data from the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) on blood pressure and AF, which included more than one million individuals of European ancestry — of whom 60,620 had AF and 970,216 did not.

The first step was to identify 894 genetic variants associated with blood pressure. Next, the researchers analysed which of those variants play a role in AF. To conduct the naturally randomised controlled trial, the 894 genetic variants were randomly allocated to all participants at conception, giving everyone a blood pressure level. Georgiopoulos et al then analysed the association between blood pressure and AF.

Elevated blood pressure was associated with an increased risk of AF. Specifically, 1mmHg rises in systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and pulse pressure were associated with 1.8%, 2.6% and 1.4% relative increases in the risk of atrial fibrillation, respectively.

Dr Georgiopoulos comments: “Establishing that elevated blood pressure causes AF provides further impetus for public health strategies aimed at improving blood pressure control in the general population and for individual efforts to keep levels in check”. He added that, based on the findings of the study, the relationship was not driven by other conditions including coronary artery disease and obesity.

He concluded: “Our findings confirm the hypothesis that AF is preventable. This indicates that strict blood pressure control could be an effective strategy to stop atrial fibrillation and its complications, which include stroke, heart failure, dementia, and depression.”

Doing someting new & innovative to PREVENT AF? Or finding new ways to DETECT AF during the pandemic? Submit your case study to the AF Association Healthcare Pioneers - Showcasing Best Practice in AF Report 2022. 


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