The report is published in the Feb. 28 issue of The Lancet.
For the study, Benjamin's team, which included Dr. Renate Schnabel from the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany, collected data on 4,764 people who participated in the Framingham Heart Study. These individuals were aged 45 to 95 and did not have AF. The selection of people for the study was made from examinations done between June 1968 and September 1987.
Over 10 years of follow-up, 10 percent of the people developed AF. The strongest factors that predicted the risk of developing AF were age, sex, weight, high blood pressure, being treated for high blood pressure, heart murmur and heart failure. In addition, the time between the P and R waves (PR interval), as seen on an electrocardiogram, was also a significant predictor of AF, the researchers found.
The risk of AF varied with age. Those over 65 were more than 15 times more likely to develop AF than people under 65, the researchers noted.
This risk score may help doctors and patients determine the risk for AF, Benjamin said. More important, this risk score might help doctors develop a way to prevent AF, she said.
"Before you can prevent something, you have to know how to predict it," Benjamin said. This risk score will be useful first to help patients understand their risk, second to provide information for clinical trials, and third to evaluate other ways of predicting AF, she said.
Dr. David Brieger, an associate professor from Concord Hospital at the University of Sydney in Australia and author of an accompanying journal comment, said this study could be a first step in finding a way to prevent AF.
"It may be possible to identify strategies, pharmacologic and others such as lifestyle, to preven
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