Uric acid linked to higher risk of irregular heart rhythm

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In a study from Karolinska Institutet, scientists found high levels of uric acid in midlife may significantly raise the risk for a serious type of irregular heartbeat in the decades that follow, even in people without traditional risk factors.

The findings suggest that uric acid may play an important role in the development of atrial fibrillation, or AFib, an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart complications.

Uric acid is a chemical produced when the body breaks down purines, found in high amounts in alcohol, especially beer, and foods such as red meat, bacon, veal, organ meats, and some types of seafood, such as anchovies, sardines, scallops, herring and mussels.

Uric acid is better known for its link to gout, a painful type of arthritis, and kidney stones.

But studies also have linked high levels of uric acid to an increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

In the current study, the team followed 339,604 participants from Sweden for an average of 26 years.

Participants, recruited from 1985 to 1996, were 30 to 60 years old and free of cardiovascular disease at the time of enrollment.

Uric acid was measured at least once using a blood test. Participants were then divided into groups, ranking uric acid levels from lowest to highest.

The team found AFib risk rose as uric acid levels rose. Overall, those with the highest uric acid levels had a 45% higher risk of AFib than those with the lowest levels.

Elevated uric acid levels increased AFib risk even among participants who had not developed high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease or heart failure during the follow-up period.

This means that uric acid may not only operate through cardiometabolic mechanisms to increase the risk of AFib, but it may also have a direct influence on AFib development through other mechanisms.

The team says more research is needed to identify those mechanisms, though inflammation may play a role.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about drug combo that could prevent stroke and heart disease, and Stanford study finds a new cause of heart attack.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about 7 common triggers of heartbeat problem that may surprise you, and results showing drinking up to three cups of coffee a day may protect your heart.

The study was conducted by Mozhu Ding et al and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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