Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia, and confers a high risk of stroke and heart failure. Hypertension and ageing are two important risk factors of incident atrial fibrillation and are both associated with increased arterial stiffness. The possible relationship between arterial stiffness and atrial fibrillation is insufficiently documented and is probably complex. We tested these relations in a cohort of hypertensive patients.
The population belongs to a registry which includes patients referred before administration of antihypertensive treatment and fulfilling the following criteria: office blood pressure (BP) above 140/90 mmHg, essential hypertension, no history of cardiovascular events, type 1 diabetes or atrial fibrillation, 24-h ambulatory measurement of BP coupled with the measurement of timing of Korotkoff sounds to assess arterial stiffness [indexed theoretical value of QKD interval for a SBP of 100 mmHg, at heart rate (HR) of 60 b.p.m., indexed for height and QRS duration (QKDh)]. An echocardiographic examination was carried out at baseline in the majority of patients. Atrial fibrillation-free survival was analysed with a Cox model including sex, diabetes, smoking, hypercholesterolaemia, QKDh, average 24-h pulse pressure and mean BP, mean 24-h HR, BMI and left atrial diameter (LAD), when available.
We included 853 patients and recorded 67 new onsets of atrial fibrillation (mean follow-up = 102 ± 62 months). Analysis found three variables significantly and independently linked to the occurrence of atrial fibrillation: age, QKDh and 24-h average HR. When LAD was introduced (n = 480, 35 incident atrial fibrillation), three variables were linked to incident atrial fibrillation: age, QKDh and LAD.
Arterial stiffness is a strong predictor of future atrial fibrillation in hypertensive patients, independently of age, 24-h pulse pressure and LAD.