The prevalence of atrial fibrillation on 48-hour ambulatory electrocardiography in African Americans compared to Whites: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study

Am Heart J. 2019 Oct:216:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2019.06.017. Epub 2019 Jul 3.


Background: A lower prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF), but paradoxically higher burden of cardiovascular disease risk factors, has been observed among African Americans compared to Whites in studies of AF identified by mostly 12-lead electrocardiograms (ECGs) and clinically.

Methods: We performed 48-hour ambulatory electrocardiography (aECG) in a biracial sample of 1,193 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) (mean age = 78 years, 62% African Americans, 64% female). Atrial fibrillation was identified from aECG, study visit ECGs, and discharge codes from cohort hospitalizations. We used covariate-adjusted logistic regression to estimate prevalence odds ratios (ORs) for AF in African Americans versus Whites, with adjustment for sampling and nonresponse.

Results: African Americans were more likely than Whites to have hypertension and diabetes but less likely to have coronary heart disease. The prevalence of AF detected by aECG or ARIC study ECG (adjusted for age and coronary heart disease) was lower in African Americans than Whites (2.7% vs 5.0%). White men had a higher (although not significant) AF prevalence of 7.8% compared to the other race and gender groups at 2.3%-2.8%. The adjusted OR for AF was 0.49 (0.24-0.99) comparing African Americans to Whites. Findings were similar when AF was defined to include prior AF hospitalizations (OR = 0.42, 0.25-0.72). There were no significant differences by race for asymptomatic or paroxysmal AF.

Conclusions: Atrial fibrillation was less prevalent in African American than white older adults, regardless of detection method. Although overall detection of new AF cases with aECG was low, future studies should consider longer-term monitoring to characterize AF by race.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / ethnology
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Electrocardiography, Ambulatory / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*