Inflammation Linked to Arrhythmia

High sensitivity C reactive protein associated with development of atrial fibrillation in men

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) There are a wide range of risk factors for heart arrhythmias, but could a symptom such as simple inflammation be enough to increase your risk?

New research has linked inflammatory biomarkers with atrial fibrillation, a common heart arrhythmia, but only in men.

Investigators found that high-sensitivity C-reactive protein was associated with the development of atrial fibrillation in men, but not women.

"Try to eat more vegetables."

High-sensitivity C-reactive protein can be measured in a simple blood test as part of a panel of tests that measure heart health. An individual test can cost less than $50. 

Audhild Nyrnes, MD, a lead author from the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Tromsø in Norway, investigated the association in a large cohort study.

During the study, researchers followed 6,315 Norwegian men and women beginning in 1994 for nearly 11 years. The average patient age at the study start was 60.

Upon enrollment in the study, participants received a check up that included height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and white blood cell count. Patients were also questioned about their health to determine whether they were diabetic, previously had chest pain or a heart attack, or took blood pressure medicine.

During follow-up visits, clinicians measured markers including white blood cells, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation in the body), and fibrinogen, a protein in blood plasma essential for blood clotting.

They also measured osteoprotegerin, which plays a role in regulating bone mass.

Patients were followed to determine whether they developed atrial fibrillation, which was documented through an electrocardiogram.

Individuals with white blood cell counts in the top 25 percent were found to be slightly more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. Other biomarkers were not found to have to link to a patient's risk of developing the heart arrhythmia.

Additional research will be needed to confirm the findings and determine the significance of the increased risk.

The study was recently published in journal Gender Medicine.

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Review Date: 
October 18, 2012
Last Updated:
October 29, 2012