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Sudden steep drop in blood pressure on standing from lying down may predict atrial fibrillation
Date:11/20/2013

Results of a Johns Hopkins-led study have identified a possible link between a history of sudden drops in blood pressure and the most common form of irregular heartbeat.

The study suggests that a bout of orthostatic hypotension a steep blood pressure drop that occurs when a person stands up after a period of lying down appears to be associated with an overall 40 percent increase in the risk of developing atrial fibrillation over the following two decades.

While a simple, inexpensive doctor's office test can check for orthostatic hypotension, the researchers caution that the condition itself does not generally need treatment, nor have they demonstrated that it is a cause of atrial fibrillation.

They further note that because atrial fibrillation is often present without causing noticeable symptoms, some people may already have the rhythm disturbance before an episode of orthostatic hypotension, though they tried to exclude those subjects from the study.

But the researchers say their findings do suggest the need for further study and that clinicians who diagnose orthostatic hypotension in their patients need to be more vigilant than they otherwise might be in watching out for atrial fibrillation. The arrhythmia is an underdiagnosed condition that increases the risk of stroke fivefold, as well as risks of heart failure and dementia. People with atrial fibrillation are often treated with blood thinners to reduce the risk of stroke, and with other medications that regulate the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat. The findings were published last week in the journal PLOS ONE.

"We hope our research will sensitize physicians to a possible link between orthostatic hypotension and atrial fibrillation, and that they will go the extra step to see if something more serious is going on when patients experience rapid blood pressure fluctuations," says study leader Sunil K. Agarwal, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., a fellow in the Div
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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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