Atrial fibrillation (AFib), which affects more than 33 million people worldwide, is a common, abnormal heart rhythm.
It is an irregular and often rapid heartbeat that can lead to stroke, heart failure, and other complications.
There are a number of clinical risk factors for developing AFib, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
In a recent study from Penn Medicine, researchers found that taller people have an increased risk of developing AFib.
The research reveals a strong link between the genetic variants associated with height and one’s risk for AFib. It is among the first to show that height may be a causal risk factor for AFib.
The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. The lead author is Michael Levin, MD, a Cardiovascular Medicine fellow at Penn.
Previous studies have found that taller individuals appear to have a higher risk of developing AFib.
However, questions exist about whether height can cause AFib, or if it’s just a common, insignificant factor.
In the study, the team used data from the Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Trials (GIANT) consortium, which tested more than 700,000 individuals to identify genetic variants associated with height.
They also examined data from the Atrial Fibrillation Genetics (AFGen) consortium, which studied more than 500,000 individuals to identify genetic variants associated with AFib.
The team found that the risk for AFib climbed as one’s height increased, with every one-inch increase in height translating to about a three percent increase in the risk of Afib—independent of other clinical factors—as compared to those at average height (5 feet and 7 inches).
Their analysis revealed that genetic variants associated with height were also strongly associated with Afib, suggesting that increased height may be a cause of atrial fibrillation.
The team says it may be beneficial to incorporate height into risk-prediction tools for AFib.
While current guidelines advise against widespread screening for AFib, the findings show that a certain group of patients—specifically, very tall patients—may benefit from screening.
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