Measures of Body Size and Composition and Risk of Incident Atrial Fibrillation in Older People: The Cardiovascular Health Study

Am J Epidemiol. 2016 Jun 1;183(11):998-1007. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwv278. Epub 2016 May 5.


Various anthropometric measures, including height, have been associated with atrial fibrillation (AF). This raises questions about the appropriateness of using ratio measures such as body mass index (BMI), which contains height squared in its denominator, in the evaluation of AF risk. Among older adults, the optimal anthropometric approach to risk stratification of AF remains uncertain. Anthropometric and bioelectrical impedance measures were obtained from 4,276 participants (mean age = 72.4 years) free of cardiovascular disease in the Cardiovascular Health Study. During follow-up (1989-2008), 1,050 cases of AF occurred. BMI showed a U-shaped association, whereas height, weight, waist circumference, hip circumference, fat mass, and fat-free mass were linearly related to incident AF. The strongest adjusted association occurred for height (per each 1-standard-deviation increment, hazard ratio = 1.38, 95% confidence interval: 1.25, 1.51), which exceeded all other measures, including weight (hazard ratio = 1.21, 95% confidence interval: 1.13, 1.29). Combined assessment of log-transformed weight and height showed regression coefficients that departed from the 1 to -2 ratio inherent in BMI, indicating a loss of predictive information. Risk estimates for AF tended to be stronger for hip circumference than for waist circumference and for fat-free mass than for fat mass, which was explained largely by height. These findings highlight the prominent role of body size and the inadequacy of BMI as determinants of AF in older adults.

Keywords: aging; atrial fibrillation; body size; obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / ethnology
  • Blood Glucose
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weights and Measures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors


  • Blood Glucose
  • Lipids