redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Over 12 million people in the US could experience a common yet dangerous form of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation by the year 2030, according to new research appearing in the American Journal of Cardiology.
According to Reuters Health reporter Kathryn Doyle, approximately five million American adults had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF) in 2010. However, the new study projects the number of AF patients could more than double to 12 million within the next 16 years – though it could range from seven million to 17 million.
“By any estimate, there are going to be lots of (predominantly older) Americans with AF in 2030,” study co-author and Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Daniel Singer told Doyle. His colleague, Dr. Jonathan Piccini of the Duke University Medical Center, added the research highlights “a very big problem.”
Singer and his team based their estimates on the number of new AF cases diagnosed between 2001 and 2008, according to a national insurance claims database containing information pertaining to 14 million US patients.
Based on those findings, they determined the number of Americans with the condition increased from 220 per 100,000 in 2002 to 350 per 100,000 in 2007, Reuters reported on Friday.
“Taking into account US Census Bureau projections for the increase in numbers of older Americans in the coming decades, the researchers estimate there will be a total of 12.1 million people in the US living with AF in 2030,” Doyle said. “That represents an average annual growth rate of 4.6 percent in the number of people with AF.”
The condition, even if a patient does not experience symptoms, increases a person’s risk of having a stroke five-fold, Singer said. In fact, he claims AF is responsible for 15 percent of all strokes in the US annually.
Doyle points out the research was funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer, manufacture of apixaban (Eliquis) – a drug used to reduce stroke risk in AF patients. In addition, the authors acknowledge only privately insured individuals were referenced for the study, meaning the sample might not necessarily be indicative of the US population as a whole.
“However, most studies agree the number of AF cases will continue to increase to some degree, which puts individuals at risk and costs the health system,” the Reuters reporter added. Even though the condition can be treated with bloodthinners, surgery and/or lifestyle changes, the increasing AF rate “is not a good thing,” Piccini said. “It means more heart failure, more strokes and higher mortality.”
Older adults and those at-risk for AF should “make sure they get good preventive health care, including diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, diabetes or sleep apnea,” he added. “Maintaining a healthy body weight and active lifestyle are also important.”
In a related story, researchers from Switzerland claim healthy, middle-aged women who drink at least two alcoholic beverages each day have a slight increase in the chance for developing AF.
According to April Clarkson of News Fix, the investigators studied nearly 35,000 females over the age of 45 who did not have the irregular heartbeat at the time the study started. They followed the subjects for more than 12 years, and during that time a total of 653 women went on to develop atrial fibrillation.
“They found that, although consumption of up to 2 alcoholic beverages a day was not associated with an increased risk of irregular heartbeat, heavier consumption of 2 or more drinks was linked to a small but significantly increased risk of atrial fibrillation,” Clarkson said.
She added the study results “suggest that heavy drinking may increase the risk” of AF in “relatively young, otherwise healthy women,” but noted additional research would be necessary in order to find out for certain whether or not there would be “any long-term consequences.”