Blood pressure, hypertension and the risk of atrial fibrillation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies

Eur J Epidemiol. 2023 Feb;38(2):145-178. doi: 10.1007/s10654-022-00914-0. Epub 2023 Jan 10.


Elevated blood pressure and hypertension have been associated with increased risk of atrial fibrillation in a number of epidemiological studies, however, the strength of the association has differed between studies. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between blood pressure and hypertension and atrial fibrillation. PubMed and Embase databases were searched for studies of hypertension and blood pressure and atrial fibrillation up to June 6th 2022. Cohort studies reporting adjusted relative risk (RR) estimates and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of atrial fibrillation associated with hypertension or blood pressure were included. A random effects model was used to estimate summary RRs. Sixty eight cohort studies were included in the meta-analysis. The summary RR was 1.50 (95% CI: 1.42-1.58, I2 = 98.1%, n = 56 studies) for people with hypertension compared to those without hypertension (1,080,611 cases, 30,539,230 participants), 1.18 (95% CI: 1.16-1.21, I2 = 65.9%, n = 37 studies) per 20 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure (346,471 cases, 14,569,396 participants), and 1.07 (95% CI: 1.03-1.11, I2 = 91.5%, n = 22 studies) per 10 mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure (332,867 cases, 14,354,980 participants). There was evidence of a nonlinear association between diastolic blood pressure and atrial fibrillation with a steeper increase in risk at lower levels of diastolic blood pressure, but for systolic blood pressure the association appeared to be linear. For both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, the risk increased even within the normal range of blood pressure and persons at the high end of systolic and diastolic blood pressure around 180/110 mmHg had a 1.8-2.3 fold higher risk of atrial fibrillation compared to those with a blood pressure of 90/60 mmHg. These results suggest that elevated blood pressure and hypertension increases the risk of atrial fibrillation and there is some increase in risk even within the normal range of systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; Blood pressure; Cohort studies; Hypertension; Meta-analysis; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation* / complications
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / complications