Hypertension and obesity are well-known factors causing atrial fibrillation, and a recent study has found that the risk of atrial fibrillation increases in proportion to the period one has high blood pressure.
In the case of hypertension controlled by medication, the correlation between high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation has not been clarified in medically advanced countries. Against this backdrop, the study revealed that the longer a patient has hypertension, the higher the risk of developing atrial fibrillation even if he or she has been treated.
According to a research team led by Professor Choi Jong-il at the Korea University Anam Hospital, patients who had hypertension more than five years are two times more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than healthy people. The risk increases to three-folds if the patient is also obese.
The research team analyzed the data of about 10 million people who took national health checkups from 2009 to 2017. The researchers divided blood pressure and weight into groups of different levels and assessed the effect on atrial fibrillation onset.
The blood pressure data was divided into five levels: healthy (120/80 millimeters of mercury), pre-hypertension (120 to 140/80 to 90 mmHg), not treated, and treated with the antihypertensive drug for more than five years or less.
The waist measurement was divided into five-centimeter intervals based on 85 centimeters for men and 80 for women.
Body Mass Index (BMI) was sorted into underweight (below 18.5), average (between 18.5 and 23), pre-obesity (between 23 and 25), first-stage obesity (between 25 and 30), and high obesity (more than 30).
The study result shows that the risk of atrial fibrillation was 1.14 times higher in the pre-hypertension stage, and 1.39 times higher for hypertension patients without medication.
Also, patients who have been taking hypertension drugs for less than five years were 1.19 times more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, and, for those who received treatment longer than five years, 2.34 times more likely.
The research team also confirmed that hypertension and obesity have a synergistic effect, further increasing the risk of atrial fibrillation.
The risk of atrial fibrillation in overweight patients who took hypertension drug for longer than five years was more than three times higher than in healthy people. Besides, the risk was higher by 3.11 times and 3.36 times based on waist measurement and BMI.
“Korean society is rapidly aging, and the elderly population with diseases, including hypertension and chronic metabolic diseases, is likely to increase. The direct relation between duration of hypertension and atrial fibrillation, which is fatal to life, should be noted at the national level,” Professor Choi said.
Although atrial fibrillation is a direct and leading cause of stroke and heart attack, there is no clear preventive method. So, early detection and treatment through accurate testing are vital, Choi added.
The study, titled “Impact of the Duration and Degree of Hypertension and Body Weight on New-Onset Atrial Fibrillation,” was published on Hypertension, a journal of American Heart Association, and chosen as a high impact paper.
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