Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Prevalence Among Young People Rising Putting Them at Risk of Heart Problems

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The prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AFib), characterized by irregular and rapid heartbeats, is increasing among younger adults, posing greater risks than previously believed, including heart failure.

AFib patients at risk of hospitalization due to heart problems

Conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Heart and Vascular Institute, the study is one of the earliest to investigate a sizable cohort of AFib patients under 65 in the US. Findings reveal that this demographic faces increased risks of hospitalization due to heart failure, stroke, or heart attack, along with elevated rates of comorbidities and mortality compared to non-AFib peers.

Dr. Aditya Bhonsale, a cardiac electrophysiologist at UPMC, highlights a lack of data supporting the belief that Afib is rare and harmless in individuals under 65. Bhonsale’s team, intrigued by a rise in young Afib patients at UPMC, leveraged the institution’s extensive patient records to investigate this phenomenon, a first in the field.

The study analyzed electronic health records of 67,221 patients treated for AFib at UPMC between 2010 and 2019 found that more than a quarter of them (17,335) were under 65, a significant deviation from the usual estimation of two percent prevalence. Bhonsale this increase suggests a growing burden of cardiovascular risk factors among younger Americans.

Survival rates for AFib individual lower for females compared to males

Researchers also discovered that over a span of ten years, survival rates for individuals with AFib were between 1.3 to 1.5 times poorer among males and 1.82 to 3.16 times worse for females, when compared to young individuals without AFib. Additionally, patients exhibited elevated occurrences of cardiovascular disease risk elements, including tobacco use, obesity, high blood pressure, and sleep-disordered breathing, which are acknowledged contributors to adverse structural and electrical alterations in the heart over time.

Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology within the Division of Cardiology at HVI and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine professor Sandeep Jain, the senior author of the study, said they are hopeful that the findings of this research will encourage further exploration into determining the most effective treatments for individuals suffering from Afib.

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