A-Fib Is More Dangerous for Blacks Than Whites

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Atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, an irregular heartbeat associated with various types of cardiovascular problems, is more dangerous, and more often fatal, in black people than in whites, a new study has found.

Researchers studied 15,080 people, average age 54, of whom 3,831 were black. They followed them for an average of 20 years. The findings were published in JAMA Cardiology.

The rate of atrial fibrillation was higher among whites than blacks, and both white and black people with A-fib had increased risks of stroke, heart failure and coronary heart disease. Those with A-fib also had an increased risk of dying from these and other causes.

But even though rates of A-fib were higher in whites than blacks, the actual effect of A-fib led to much higher rates of disease in blacks than in whites. Compared with white people with A-fib, blacks with the condition were more than twice as likely to have a stroke, 42 percent more likely to go into heart failure, 76 percent more likely to have coronary heart disease, and nearly twice as likely to die prematurely.

The reason for the finding is not clear, but the study had no data on treatment or treatment disparities, which might partly explain the outcomes.

Still, the lead author, Dr. Jared W. Magnani, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said that “the extensive health-related differences here are likely fueled by racial disparities. We need a preventive health system for all Americans, and we don’t have that in place.”