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12/29/2008

Study finds smoking may increase risk of atrial fibrillation

DURHAM, N.C. Cigarette smoking may contribute to the risk of atrial fibrillation a study published this month in the American Heart Journal found.

Atrial fibrillation is a disorder found in about 2.2 million Americans, according to the American Heart Association. During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two small upper chambers (the atria) quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood isn't pumped completely out of them, so it may pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results. About 15% of strokes occur in people with atrial fibrillation.

The likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation increases with age. Three to 5 percent of people over 65 have atrial fibrillation.The association between cigarette smoking and the risk of atrial fibrillation was examined in 5,668 subjects without atrial fibrillation at baseline as part of the Rotterdam Study, a population-based cohort study among subjects over the age of 55. Researchers found that both current smokers and former smokers had increased risks of atrial fibrillation as compared to people who never smoked. No differences were found between men and women.

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