HRS.16: Hispanics, African Americans with heart failure are at lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation

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A retrospective analysis found Hispanic and African American patients with heart failure had a lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation compared with white patients who had heart failure.

Results of the study were presented on May 4 during a featured poster session at the Heart Rhythm Society’s scientific sessions in San Francisco. Eric H. Shulman, MD, of the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York City, was the study’s lead author.

The researchers noted that previous studies showed that African Americans had higher rates of heart failure but a lower prevalence of atrial fibrillation compared with white patients.

For this analysis, they evaluated 68,022 people for the presence of atrial fibrillation as diagnosed with electrocardiograms and heart failure as diagnosed with ICD-9 codes. The study included 28,489 Hispanics, 25,204 African Americans and 14,329 non-Hispanic white patients.

Of the patients, 7.3 percent had heart failure, including 6.7 percent of Hispanics, 7.5 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 7.9 percent of African Americans. In addition, 12.2 percent of patients had atrial fibrillation, including 9.3 percent of Hispanics, 22.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 9.9 percent of African Americans.

After the researchers adjusted for several risk factors, they found that the presence of heart failure in Hispanics and African Americans was associated with a significantly lower odds ratio (OR) of developing atrial fibrillation compared with the presence of heart failure in white patients. The odds ratios were 0.768 for African Americans and 0.731 for Hispanic, meaning they were 23.2 percent and 26.9 percent less likely than non-Hispanic white patients to develop atrial fibrillation.

“Our analysis shows an independent association between race and ethnicity and atrial fibrillation in a large population with heart failure, which is something largely unknown, specifically within the Hispanic population. It’s especially interesting because, despite having many risk factors for AF, Hispanic and African American patients had a lower risk of developing AF,” Shulman said in a news release. “There may be an underlying genetic reason for why we saw such significant differences between these groups. Better understanding and awareness of the disparities between heart failure and atrial fibrillation by race and ethnicity will help physicians develop a more individualized approach to patient care moving forward.”