Irregular heartbeat still shortens life even with drop in deaths

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In a new study from Boston University, researchers found deaths related to atrial fibrillation have declined over the last 45 years.

But 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.

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

The Framingham Heart Study is one of the only studies in the world that allow studying such temporal trends.

The researchers analyzed health data from three generations of Framingham Heart Study participants from 1972 to 2015.

They tracked 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 prognosis of individuals with atrial fibrillation has improved over time, but atrial fibrillation is still associated with a major gap in life expectancy as compared to individuals without atrial fibrillation.

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 the findings of this study highlight that atrial fibrillation remains a very serious condition. Advances in prevention will be essential to stem the epidemic of atrial fibrillation and reduce its associated mortality.

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The study is published in BMJ. One author of the study is Ludovic Trinquart.

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