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22-04-2010 | Diabetes | Article

Diabetics at increased risk for atrial fibrillation


Free abstract

MedWire News: Individuals with diabetes have an increased risk for developing atrial fibrillation (AF) compared with the general population, report researchers who found that longer disease duration and worse glycemic control contributed to this risk.

“When a patient with diabetes has symptoms like heart palpitations, clinicians should have a higher level of suspicion that the reason could be AF,” said lead author Sascha Dublin from the University of Washington in Seattle, USA.

“This heart rhythm disturbance is important to diagnose, because it can be treated with medications like warfarin that can prevent many of the strokes that AF would otherwise cause,” she added.

Dublin and team identified 1410 people with newly diagnosed AF (median age 74 years) and 2203 controls (median age 68 years) with no AF from a large, integrated healthcare system.

Writing in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the researchers report that 252 (17.9%) patients with AF had pharmacologically treated diabetes compared with 311 (14.1%) of the controls.

Patients with treated diabetes were 40% more likely to have AF than those without diabetes.

Of note, Dublin and colleagues also found that for each additional year of treated diabetes duration the risk for AF increased by 3%.

In addition, worse glycemic control increased the risk for AF. Compared with nondiabetics the excess risk for AF increased from 6% in diabetics with a glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) of 7% or less to 96% in those with an HbA1c above 9%.

“Our findings suggest clinicians should have heightened suspicion for AF in people with diabetes, particularly those presenting with relevant symptoms,” conclude the authors. “It may also be useful to screen for diabetes in people newly diagnosed with AF.”

They add: “Future research should investigate treatment approaches to reduce the risk of AF among people with diabetes.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Helen Albert