Palpitations are predictive of future atrial fibrillation. An 11-year follow-up of 22,815 men and women: the Tromsø Study

Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2013 Oct;20(5):729-36. doi: 10.1177/2047487312446562. Epub 2012 May 15.


Background: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common cardiac arrhythmia which increases morbidity and mortality. Identification of risk factors is therefore important. We examined the impact of palpitations and cardiovascular risk factors in prediction of AF (all types) and lone AF in a large population-based cohort.

Design: We carried out a prospective population-based cohort study.

Methods: A total of 22,815 participants from a population survey in 1994-1995 were followed-up for a mean of 11.1 years. Mean age at baseline was 46 years. Measurements of height, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol, and information on palpitations, diabetes, angina, myocardial infarction, and antihypertensive treatment were obtained at baseline. The outcome measure was first-ever AF, documented on an electrocardiogram. Cox proportional hazards regression model was used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) for AF.

Results: Palpitations were associated with increased risk of AF in both women (HR 1.62, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.29-2.02) and men (HR 1.91, 95% CI 1.54-2.35). For hypertension the HR for AF was 1.98 (1.46-2.69) in women and 1.40 (1.13-1.74) in men. The HR for 1 SD increase in body mass index (BMI) was 1.16 (1.06-1.27) in women and 1.47 (1.32-1.63) in men. Body height and BMI were associated with increased risk for lone AF in men.

Conclusion: Palpitations, hypertension and BMI were predictive of future atrial fibrillation in both sexes.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; palpitations; risk factors; sex differences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Comorbidity
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors