Some Genes May be Linked to the Risk of Afib, According to a New Study

  • According to a new study, certain genes can predict the chance of getting atrial fibrillation, or Afib.
  • Every year, Afib is associated with tens of thousands of deaths.
  • Over a ten-year span, researchers looked at data from over 1,300 people.

Atrial fibrillation, often known as AF or Afib, is the most frequent type of treated heart arrhythmia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the agency, Afib was listed on 183,321 death certificates in 2019 and was the cause of death in 26,535 of those cases.

Specific genes are found in patients younger than 66 who have early-onset atrial fibrillation, according to new research published this week in the Journal of the American Medical AssociationTrusted Source (JAMA) (EOAF).

In an interview with JAMA CardiologyTrusted Source, study author M. Benjamin Shoemaker, MD, explained: "how I really became interested in studying this group." "Wasn't it about 20 years ago that the first case reports and case series emerged, revealing unusual variations in genes related to classical inherited cardiomyopathyTrusted Source syndromes in families with a strong history of atrial fibrillation?"

"These other conditions can be extremely dangerous, resulting in heart failure and rapid death," he added.

Genes that are highly linked to the disease

A total of 1,293 people with Afib diagnosed before the age of 66 underwent whole-genome sequencing as part of the study.

The participants were all 56 years old when the study began, and they were enrolled between November 23, 1999, and June 2, 2015.

In 10% of them, researchers discovered uncommon genetic variations.

On average, 17 percent of research participants died over the next 10 years. Patients with disease-associated variations in the most common genes had a 26% mortality rate.

The study authors noted, "The data imply that uncommon variations in cardiomyopathy and arrhythmia genes may be related with an elevated risk of mortality among individuals with early-onset AF, especially those diagnosed at a younger age."

They noted that genetic testing could provide valuable information about Afib risk for patients with EOAF, particularly those who are younger.

If you should receive genetic testing, your family history can help you decide.

According to David S. Park, MD, Ph.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone's Heart Rhythm Center, "genetic testing should not be conducted in all patients with atrial fibrillation."

He did add, however, that it could be explored in patients diagnosed with Afib at a young age or who had a family history of EOAF and concomitant cardiomyopathy, sudden death, or early pacemaker placement.

"This study shows that among younger individuals with atrial fibrillation (less than 66 years old), this treatment is effective," Park added. "In 10% of the research population, a rare genetic variation that is considered pathogenic or potentially pathogenic was discovered."

It's 'very frequent among the elderly.

"We term a prolonged, irregular heartbeat atrial fibrillation," explained Joshua Yamamoto, MD, a cardiologist at Foxhall Medicine and the author of You Can Prevent a Stroke.

He said the disease is "very frequent" and should be considered part of the natural aging process.

"Afib affects only 1% of 50-year-olds, but 30% of 70-year-olds have it," Yamamoto stated. "For most people, it goes unnoticed for a long period."

He added that greater blood pressure and a natural drop in the heart's "tempo" are two significant factors that contribute to Afib in elderly people.

Treatment options for Afib

Afib treatment is increasingly atrial fibrillation ablation, according to Richard Becker, MD, head of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine's Heart, Lung, and Vascular Institute.

This treatment employs radiofrequency radiation and specialized equipment to pinpoint one or more locations of the heart where the irregular cardiac rhythm originates.

He continued, "There are drugs that can be used to prevent atrial fibrillation and others that lower the heartbeat to a more normal rhythm." "Blood thinners are especially essential for lowering the chance of a stroke."

Is it possible to prevent or postpone it?

Certain lifestyle adjustments, according to Christopher Davis, MD, a cardiologist at Reveal Vitality, can lessen the incidence of atrial fibrillation.

Excessive caffeine consumption should be avoided, blood pressure should be controlled through lifestyle modifications or medication, and sleep apnea should be treated.

"Other lifestyle adjustments include improving micronutrients like magnesium, which also have a role in cardiac rhythm abnormalities," he explained.

"Learning excellent stress management strategies will also help with the overproduction of stress hormones,' which can lead to atrial fibrillation," he added.

While specific gene variants carry a higher risk, he claims that in most cases, lifestyle variables dictate whether those genes are expressed.

"Knowing your genetic risk for any ailment, including atrial fibrillation, is extremely beneficial," Davis said. "However, carrying a specific gene does not automatically imply that a patient would have a specific ailment."

Davis mentioned that lifestyle drugs and environmental variables can influence how your genes work, a process known as epigenetics.

"Understanding these epigenetic modifiers that can impact the expression of genetic variants is critical," he said.

In conclusion

Certain genes have been found to be closely linked to the diagnosis of early-onset atrial fibrillation, a potentially lethal illness.

Screening for these genes, according to experts, may benefit certain people, particularly those with a strong family history of Afib or who have already been diagnosed with it at a young age.

They also claim that changing one's lifestyle can lessen the likelihood of having this disease in persons who have these genes.

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