This heart disease less deadly than it used to be, but still cause for concern

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In a new study, researchers found a decline in deaths related to atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) over the last 45 years.

They also found that the increasingly common condition still takes an average of two years off of a person’s life, compared to three years back in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The research was conducted by a team from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) and elsewhere.

In the study, the team used data from the BU-based, multigenerational Framingham Heart Study, the longest-running cardiovascular health study in the United States.

They analyzed health data from three generations of Framingham Heart Study participants from 1972 to 2015, tracking the likelihood of a participant dying 10 years after an atrial fibrillation diagnosis, compared with someone of the same age, sex, and with otherwise similar health.

In the first period (1972-1985), a participant with atrial fibrillation lived an average of 2.9 fewer years 10 or more years after diagnosis than a comparison participant without atrial fibrillation.

In the second period (1986-2000) the gap narrowed to 2.1 years, and in the third period (2001-2015) it was 2.0 years.

The team says the improvement in the excess mortality associated with atrial fibrillation may be explained by continued improvements in early detection, management, and treatment.

But atrial fibrillation is still associated with a major gap in life expectancy as compared to individuals without atrial fibrillation.

Advances in prevention will be essential to stop the epidemic of atrial fibrillation and reduce its death rate.

One author of the study is Dr. Ludovic Trinquart, associate professor of biostatistics at BUSPH.

The study is published in BMJ.

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