Modifiable Risk Factors and Atrial Fibrillation
There has been increasing focus on the rising burden of atrial fibrillation (AF) since the turn of the millennium. The AF epidemic is projected not only to have an impact on morbidity and mortality, but also to result in increasing healthcare use and cost. Intensive research over the previous decades has improved our understanding of this complex arrhythmia while unraveling more knowledge gaps and inadequacies of current therapeutic options. Specifically, the advances in catheter ablation technology and strategies have not translated into significant gains in procedural success rates over recent years. Therefore, strategies aiming at lowering the risk of AF development and progression are urgently needed to curtail the AF epidemic and improve outcomes in affected individuals. Recent research has highlighted the potential beneficial effects of lifestyle and risk factor management for AF as upstream noninvasive therapy. The evidence supporting this treatment paradigm beyond routine clinical AF management argues for change in the delivery of care to patients who have this debilitating arrhythmia. In this review, we highlight the contributory role of risk factors to AF pathogenesis from both bench and bedside studies. Next, we discuss the rationale and potential benefits of risk factor modification for sinus rhythm maintenance. Last, we propose an integrated care model to incorporate risk factor modification as the fourth pillar of AF care in conjunction with established pillars of rate control, rhythm control, and anticoagulation therapy.