Smoking and drinking are two lifestyle habits that get a lot of negative criticism for a good reason. Giving up on these can be a challenge for many, but doing that can decrease the lifetime risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications, or simply atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm, characterised by a rapid and irregular beating of the atria. Often it starts as brief periods of abnormal beating, which become longer and possibly constant over time.
A study conducted by Boston University School of Medicine found that among individuals aged 55 years or older, the overall lifetime risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) was 37 percent and was influenced by the burden of risk factors.
The increase in the number of individuals with atrial fibrillation is linked to the global increase in life expectancy. Established risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation within 10 years include cigarette smoking, alcohol misuse, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, myocardial infarction, and heart failure.
However, prior research has provided little insight into the lifetime risk of atrial fibrillation.
The researchers identified smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index, blood pressure, diabetes, and history of myocardial infarction or heart failure at an index age as risk factors. They later categorized risk factor burdens as optimal, elevated, and borderline, and compared the lifetime risk estimates according to those levels of risk factor burden.
The researchers emphasized that preventive efforts to reduce the disease burden should target modifiable borderline and elevated risk factors.
The findings were published in the Journal of BMJ.