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Early-Onset A-Fib linked With Family History

Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos with A-Fib have higher rates of complications and even death as a result of A-Fib. This is despite research which shows that Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos are less likely than Whites to develop Atrial Fibrillation.

Although research of A-Fib in minority populations has been limited, researchers think they have unlocked one bit of the mystery.

Thanks to the development of a large, diverse registry of patients at the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers have been studying A-Fib in minority populations.

This study is unique because most prior studies on family history and A-Fib relied on data from mostly White populations, leaving doctors with little research to guide personalized treatment in minority communities.

A-Fib Registry of Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos and Whites: Of the 664 patients enrolled in UIC’s A-Fib registry at the time of the study, 40 percent were white, 39 percent were black and 21 percent were Latino, according to Dr. Dawood Darbar, professor of medicine and head of cardiology at the UIC College of Medicine.

Early-onset A-Fib refers to those younger than 60 years old when diagnosed.

Link with Early-Onset A-Fib diagnosis: The researchers found that there was a family history of A-Fib in 49 percent of patients who were diagnosed with early-onset A-Fib (EOAF), that is, in patients younger than 60 years of age―compared with only 22 percent of patients diagnosed with A-Fib later in life.

Monitoring First-Degree Relatives: This is the first research-based evidence that supports increased monitoring (even including genetic testing) of families who have first-degree relatives with early-onset A-Fib (EOAF) as a preventive measure against complications including strokes.

When broken down by race, the chance of a patient with early-onset A-Fib having a first-degree relative with the condition was more than two-and-a-half times more likely for Blacks and almost 10 times more likely for Latinos, compared with only two-and-a-half times more likely for Whites.

While more research is needed, these findings have important implications for identifying family members at risk for atrial fibrillation

“Many people with A-Fib do not know they have the condition until they present to the emergency room with a stroke,” said Dr. Darbar.

Hispanics/Latinos with early-onset A-Fib are almost 10 times more likely to have a first-degree relative with A-Fib.

What this Means to Patients

For patients diagnosed with early-onset A-Fib, a family history of A-Fib was found in 49 percent of patients. This research holds true across all three races, Whites, Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos.

If you have early-onset A-Fib (EOAF), that is, if younger than 60 years old when diagnosed, your family members should be monitored for A-Fib as a preventive measure against complications including stroke. This is especially true for Hispanics/Latinos.

Resource for this article
• Alzahrani Z, et al. Association Between Family History and Early-Onset Atrial Fibrillation Across Racial and Ethnic Groups. JAMA Network Open. 2018;1(5):e182497. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.2497

• AFib linked to family history in blacks, Latinos. UIC Today. September 21, 2018. https://today.uic.edu/afib-linked-to-family-history-in-blacks-latinos

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