Characterization of cardiac mechanics and incident atrial fibrillation in participants of the Cardiovascular Health Study

JCI Insight. 2020 Oct 2;5(19):e141656. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.141656.


Background: Left atrial (LA) and left ventricular (LV) remodeling are associated with atrial fibrillation (AF). The prospective associations of impairment in cardiac mechanical function, as assessed by speckle-tracking echocardiography, with incident AF are less clear.

Methods: In the Cardiovascular Health Study, a community-based cohort of older adults, participants free of AF with echocardiograms of adequate quality for speckle tracking were included. We evaluated the associations of indices of cardiac mechanics (LA reservoir strain, LV longitudinal strain, and LV early diastolic strain rate) with incident AF.

Results: Of 4341 participants with strain imaging, participants with lower LA reservoir strain were older, had more cardiometabolic risk factors, and had lower renal function at baseline. Over a median follow-up of 10 years, 497 (11.4%) participants developed AF. Compared with the highest quartile of LA reservoir strain, the lowest quartile of LA reservoir strain was associated with higher risk of AF after covariate adjustment, including LA volume and LV longitudinal strain (heart rate [HR], 1.80; 95% CI, 1.31-2.45; P < 0.001). The association of LA reservoir strain and AF was stronger in subgroups with higher blood pressure, NT-proBNP, and LA volumes. There were no associations of LV longitudinal strain and LV early diastolic strain rate with incident AF after adjustment for LA reservoir strain.

Conclusion: Lower LA reservoir strain was associated with incident AF, independent of LV mechanics, and with stronger associations in high-risk subgroups. These findings suggest that LA mechanical dysfunction precedes the development of AF. Therapies targeting LA mechanical dysfunction may prevent progression to AF.

Funding: This research was supported by contracts HHSN268201200036C, HHSN268200800007C, HHSN268201800001C, N01HC55222, N01HC85079, N01HC85080, N01HC85081, N01HC85082, N01HC85083, and N01HC85086 and grants KL2TR001424, R01HL107577, U01HL080295, and U01HL130114 from the NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), with additional contribution from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Additional support was provided by R01AG023629 from the National Institute on Aging (NIA). A full list of principal CHS investigators and institutions can be found at

Keywords: Arrhythmias; Cardiology; Cardiovascular disease; Epidemiology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / pathology
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Atria / physiopathology*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Ventricular Function, Left*
  • Ventricular Remodeling*