Background: Hypertension is an established risk factor for the development of atrial fibrillation (AF). We evaluated the association and population impact of hypertension, defined using the new 2017 guidelines, on risk of AF.
Methods: In this analysis, we included 14,915 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study without history of AF. Participants underwent blood pressure measurements at baseline and their antihypertensive medication use was assessed. Incident AF was ascertained from study electrocardiograms, hospital records and death certificates. Cox proportional models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) of AF among individuals with hypertension based on the JNC7 and 2017 ACC/AHA guidelines. Poisson models were used to obtain risk ratios and calculate population-attributable fractions (PAFs).
Results: We identified 2891 cases of incident AF during 21.4 years of mean follow-up. Prevalence of hypertension was 34 and 48% under the JNC7 and 2017 ACC/AHA definitions, respectively. HRs (95%CI) of AF in hypertensives versus non-hypertensives were 1.44 (1.32, 1.56) and 1.37 (1.26, 1.48) after multivariable adjustment under the old and new guidelines, respectively. The corresponding PAF (95%CI) using the old and new guidelines were 11% (8, 13%) and 13% (9, 16%), respectively.
Conclusions: Overall, our analysis shows that even though the prevalence of hypertension using the new criteria is 40% higher than with the old criteria, this does not translate into meaningful increases in AF attributable to hypertension. These results suggest that prevention or treatment of hypertension based on the new (versus old) guidelines may have limited impact on AF incidence.
Keywords: ACC/AHA; Atherosclerosis risk in communities study; Atrial fibrillation; Hypertension; JNC7.