Background: Autonomic fluctuations are associated with the initiation and possibly maintenance of atrial fibrillation (AF). However, little is known about the relationship between orthostatic blood pressure change, a common manifestation of autonomic dysfunction, and incident AF. Methods: We examined whether supine-to-standing changes in systolic blood pressure (SBP) are associated with incident AF in 12,071 African American and white men and women aged 45-64 years, enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risks in Communities (ARIC) study. Orthostatic hypotension (OH) was defined as a supine-standing drop in SBP by ≥20 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure by ≥10 mmHg. AF cases were identified based on study scheduled 12-lead ECG, hospital discharge ICD codes, and death certificates through 2009. Results: OH was seen in 603 (5%) at baseline. During an average follow-up of 18.1 years, 1438 (11.9%) study participants developed AF. Incident AF occurred more commonly among those with OH than those without, a rate of 9.3 vs. 6.3 per 1000 person years, (p<0.001). The age, gender, and race adjusted hazard ratio (95%CI) of AF among those with OH compared to those without was 1.62 (1.34, 2.14). This association was attenuated after adjustment for common AF risk factors to HR 1.40 (1.15, 1.71), a strength similar to that of diabetes or hypertension with AF in the same model. A non-linear relationship between orthostatic change in SBP and incident AF was present after multivariable adjustment. Conclusions: OH is associated with higher AF incidence. Whether interventions that decrease OH can reduce AF risk remains unknown.
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