Atrial Fibrillation in the 21st Century: A Current Understanding of Risk Factors and Primary Prevention Strategies

Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute, Ochsner Clinical School-The University of Queensland School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA.
Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Impact Factor: 6.26). 04/2013; 88(4):394-409. DOI: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.01.022
Source: PubMed


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia worldwide, and it has a significant effect on morbidity and mortality. It is a significant risk factor for stroke and peripheral embolization, and it has an effect on cardiac function. Despite widespread interest and extensive research on this topic, our understanding of the etiology and pathogenesis of this disease process is still incomplete. As a result, there are no set primary preventive strategies in place apart from general cardiology risk factor prevention goals. It seems intuitive that a better understanding of the risk factors for AF would better prepare medical professionals to initially prevent or subsequently treat these patients. In this article, we discuss widely established risk factors for AF and explore newer risk factors currently being investigated that may have implications in the primary prevention of AF. For this review, we conducted a search of PubMed and used the following search terms (or a combination of terms): atrial fibrillation, metabolic syndrome, obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, exercise toxicity, alcohol abuse, and treatment. We also used additional articles that were identified from the bibliographies of the retrieved articles to examine the published evidence for the risk factors of AF.

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    • "Specifically, the interaction of CV risk factors with structural and hemodynamic alterations as combined promoters of incident AF is not yet well studied [1], especially in a real-word context. The relatively disappointing results of strategies for primary prevention [5] might be "
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    ABSTRACT: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an increasing public health problem, often described as the epidemic of the new millennium. The rising health economic impact of AF, its association with poor quality of life and independent probability of increased mortality, has recently been highlighted. Although population ageing is regarded as an important contributor to this epidemic, obesity and its associated cardiometabolic comorbidities may represent the principal driving factor behind the current and projected AF epidemic. Obesity-related risk factors, such as hypertension, vascular disease, obstructive sleep apnea and pericardial fat, are thought to result in atrial electro-structural dysfunction. In addition, insulin resistance, its associated abnormalities in nutrient utilization and intermediary metabolic by-products are associated with structural and functional abnormalities, ultimately promoting AF. Recent elucidation of molecular pathways, including those responsible for atrial fibrosis, have provided mechanistic insights and the potential for targeted pharmacotherapy. In this article, we review the evidence for an obesity-related atrial electromechanical dysfunction, the mechanisms behind this and its impact on AF therapeutic outcomes. In light of the recently described mechanisms, we illustrate proposed management approaches and avenues for further investigations.
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