Deaths related to atrial fibrillation appear to be on the rise, especially among younger adults, a new study suggests.
Atrial fibrillation – often called AFib – is an irregular heartbeat that sometimes leads to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other cardiovascular complications. The condition is increasingly common, with an estimated 12.1 million people in the U.S. expected to have it in 2030. Although Blacks are less likely to get atrial fibrillation, they are more likely to suffer complications if they do get it.
The study, published Thursday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers focused on 276,373 people ages 35 to 84 who died between 2011 and 2018 from cardiovascular disease related to AFib.
After adjusting for age, researchers found about four additional AFib-related deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. population in 2018 compared to 2011 – 22.3 deaths per 100,000 versus 18 deaths. Breaking it down by age, they learned the increase per year was greater among those 35 to 64 – 7.4% – compared to 3% among those 65 to 84.
Dr. Yoshihiro Tanaka, the study’s lead author, said the research did not prove AFib was causing more deaths, only that “it could be contributing to the increase.”
He said the study was limited by possible misclassifications in the cause of death and a lack of data about when people were diagnosed with AFib, how long they had it and if they were treated for it.
A rise in AFib-deaths for younger adults
Still, the findings are troubling, especially given the rising AFib-related death rate for younger adults ages 35-64, Tanaka, a cardiologist and researcher at Northwestern University in Chicago says.
He also pointed out a disparity among younger Black men and women, whose AFib-related death rates accelerated at a greater pace compared to their white counterparts.