Atrial Fibrillation, Type 2 Diabetes, and Non–Vitamin K Antagonist Oral Anticoagulants: A Review

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Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and is associated with a 5-fold increase in the risk for stroke. Type 2 diabetes is an independent risk factor for both stroke and atrial fibrillation, and in the setting of AF, type 2 diabetes is independently associated with a 2% to 3.5% increase in absolute stroke rate per year. The overlap in the pathophysiologies of AF and type 2 diabetes are not well understood, and current practice guidelines provide few recommendations regarding patients with both conditions.


In this article, we review the epidemiology and pathophysiology of the nexus of AF and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, we analyze the subgroup of patients with type 2 diabetes enrolled in phase 3 clinical trials of non–vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants in prevention of arterial thromboembolism in AF, highlighting the greater absolute benefit of non–vitamin K oral anticoagulants in patients with type 2 diabetes. Finally, we offer recommendations on risk stratification and therapy for patients with concomitant AF and type 2 diabetes.

Conclusions and Relevance

We highlight the increased thromboembolic risk with coexisting AF and type 2 diabetes. We recommend that further studies be done to evaluate the potential benefits of anticoagulation for all patients who have both and the potential for non–vitamin K oral anticoagulants to have greater benefits than risks over vitamin K antagonists.

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