Smoking and alcohol consumption increase lifetime risk of a rapid and irregular heart rate, called atrial fibrillation, which can lead to a stroke, dementia, heart failure and other complications, a new study says. The results, published in the journal The BMJ, showed that that among individuals aged 55 years or older, the overall lifetime risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) was 37 per cent and was influenced by the burden of lifestyle risk factors such smoking and drinking alcohol.
“We examined the lifetime risk of atrial fibrillation, which measures the cumulative risk of developing a disease during the remainder of an individual’s life,” said study co-author Ludovic Trinquart, Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Public Health in Massachusetts, US.
“It is essential to look at lifetime risks in addition to short-term risks, because it may enable early identification of individuals at higher long-term risk and facilitate lifestyle change counseling,” Trinquart said.
In the study involving more than 5,000 participants, the researchers identified smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index, blood pressure, diabetes, and history of myocardial infarction or heart failure as risk factors.
“Studying atrial fibrillation is important because it is emerging as a global epidemic; it also imposes considerable socioeconomic burden. Atrial fibrillation hospitalisations follow an exponential increase and have surpassed heart failure admissions,” Trinquart said.