MONDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- The lives of millions of aging Americans are threatened by an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, which raises their risk for stroke. But a new report finds that the condition doesn't have to arise as often as it does.
In fact, more than half of atrial fibrillation cases could be prevented by curbing common heart risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity and smoking, a new study suggests.
The irregular heartbeat affects more than 2 million Americans, experts say, and "individuals with atrial fibrillation have a higher risk of having strokes and are more likely to die earlier," noted lead researcher Dr. Alvaro Alonso, an assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis.
However, he said that "maintaining a heart-friendly lifestyle, which has a known beneficial impact on cardiovascular risk factors, will not only reduce an individual's risk of developing heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases, but it will reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation."
For the study, Alonso's team collected data on almost 14,600 men and women, average age 54, who took part in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. That study looked at heart disease among people living in one of four communities in North Carolina, Mississippi, Maryland or Minnesota.
During the average 17 years of follow-up, 1,520 people developed atrial fibrillation, according to the report, which is published in the March 28 online edition of Circulation.
Of these cases, about 57 percent were ascribed to one or more known heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and overweight. High blood pressure was the strongest predictor for atrial fibrillation, and was associated with 24 percent of the cases, the researchers found.'/>"/>
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