Sex Differences and Similarities in Atrial Fibrillation Epidemiology, Risk Factors, and Mortality in Community Cohorts: Results From the BiomarCaRE Consortium (Biomarker for Cardiovascular Risk Assessment in Europe)

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Abstract

Background:

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common cardiac disease in aging populations with high comorbidity and mortality. Sex differences in AF epidemiology are insufficiently understood.

Methods:

In N=79 793 individuals without AF diagnosis at baseline (median age, 49.6 years; age range, 24.1–97.6 years; 51.7% women) from 4 community-based European studies (FINRISK, DanMONICA, Moli-sani Northern Sweden) of the BiomarCaRE consortium (Biomarker for Cardiovascular Risk Assessment in Europe), we examined AF incidence, its association with mortality, common risk factors, biomarkers, and prevalent cardiovascular disease, and their attributable risk by sex. Median follow-up time was 12.6 (to a maximum of 28.2) years.

Results:

Fewer AF cases were observed in women (N=1796; 4.4%), than in men (N=2465; 6.4%). Cardiovascular risk factor distribution and lipid profile at baseline were less beneficial in men than in women, and cardiovascular disease was more prevalent in men. Cumulative incidence increased markedly after the age of 50 years in men and after 60 years in women. The lifetime risk was similar (>30%) for both sexes. Subjects with incident AF had a 3.5-fold risk of death in comparison with those without AF. Multivariable-adjusted models showed sex differences for the association of body mass index and AF (hazard ratio per standard deviation increase, 1.18; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.12–1.23 in women versus 1.31; 95% CI 1.25–1.38 in men; interaction P value of 0.001). Total cholesterol was inversely associated with incident AF with a greater risk reduction in women (hazard ratio per SD, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.81–0.90 versus 0.92; 95% CI, 0.88–0.97 in men; interaction P value of 0.023). No sex differences were seen for C-reactive protein and N-terminal pro B-type natriuretic peptide. The population-attributable risk of all risk factors combined was 41.9% in women and 46.0% in men. About 20% of the risk was observed for body mass index.

Conclusions:

Lifetime risk of AF was high, and AF was strongly associated with increased mortality both in women and men. Body mass index explained the largest proportion of AF risk. Observed sex differences in the association of body mass index and total cholesterol with AF need to be evaluated for underlying pathophysiology and relevance to sex-specific prevention strategies.

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