Atrial Fibrillation - Genetic Predisposition

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According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, having a parent with atrial fibrillation (AF) strongly increased an offspring’s risk of developing atrial fibrillation. The study is from participants of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) Framingham Heart Study. This study is the first to find a genetic connection for atrial fibrillation.

The risk of developing atrial fibrillation doubled for offspring of parents with atrial fibrillation when compared to offspring of parents who do not have atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation is paroxysmal or persistent and becomes permanent when it does not convert to a (regular) sinus rhythm spontaneously or when attempted electrical cardioversion fails. The prevalence of atrial fibrillation is 0.4% in the general population and increases with age up to 6-8% in patients over the age of 80. In men, the age-adjusted prevalence is generally higher than in women.

According to the study authors, the "findings strongly support the notion that atrial fibrillation has genetic underpinnings. The risk also tripled when the analysis was limited to offspring who had no clinically apparent heart disease."

When the Framingham researchers analyzed the data, they found that 30 percent of participants had at least one parent with atrial fibrillation. In terms of persons developing atrial fibrillation, the results of this study indicate that "the number of offspring developing atrial fibrillation would be 4.5/1,000 if a parent had atrial fibrillation and 3/1,000 if parents did not have atrial fibrillation.

Article by
Buffalo General Surgeon