Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) risk and diabetes mellitus have been found to be linked in a new study. The study was conducted on the general population in China where researchers found that diabetes mellitus is a stand-alone risk factor for atrial fibrillation even after adjusting for other cardiovascular factors.
The researchers examined the correlation between atrial fibrillation (AF) and diabetes mellitus (DM) in a cross-sectional study that involved 11,956 residents over the age of 35 from the general population in China. The participants filled out a questionnaire, underwent a physical exam, and completed an echocardiogram and electrocardiogram.
The prevalence of atrial fibrillation was higher in those with diabetes mellitus, compared to those without the condition. Atrial fibrillation was also higher in diabetes mellitus patients than in patients without diabetes mellitus but in a hypertensive subgroup. Even after adjustments for other cardiovascular risk factors, the association between atrial fibrillation and diabetes mellitus still remained.
The authors wrote, “DM is an independent risk factor for AF in a general population from China, this association is present in total and hypertensive subjects, but not in normotensive [with normal blood pressure] ones.”
The risk of atrial fibrillation increases with age, and the number of cases of diabetes mellitus is growing as well as a result of poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. There is much evidence to support a link between atrial fibrillation and diabetes mellitus.
Cases of diabetes mellitus often go undiagnosed until they reach more severe stages. As a result, symptoms and complications of diabetes mellitus may go untreated for many years. Furthermore, these complications may mask symptoms such as atrial fibrillation, which can further increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
There have been numerous studies that aimed to understand the altered molecular pathways in diabetes mellitus patients and how they may affect the onset or progression of atrial fibrillation. These insights can help develop treatment methods to help reduce mortality due to atrial fibrillation.