April 14, 2016
1 min read

AF may increase physical decline in older adults

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In older adults, those with atrial fibrillation had a greater decline in physical performance than those without atrial fibrillation, according to new data from the Health ABC study.

“Particularly in older adults, we need to be mindful that the effects of [AF] go beyond increasing the risk for [HF] and stroke,” Jared W. Magnani, MD, MSc, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University, said in a press release. “We learned from this study that older adults with [AF] are especially vulnerable to losing strength, balance, gait speed and coordination.”

Jared W. Magnani

The researchers analyzed 2,753 community-dwelling older adults (52% women; 41% black) from the Health ABC prospective cohort study. They determined the association between incident AF and 4-year interval declines in physical performance.

Participants underwent a battery physical performance tests at age 70, 74, 78 and 82 years. They received a score of 0 to 4 based on the results of grip strength, 2-minute walk distance and 400-m walk time tests. Incident AF was determined by claims from CMS databases.

After multivariable adjustment, at all ages, participants with AF had a greater 4-year decline in the physical performance battery than those without AF (range of mean estimated decline, –0.08 to –0.1; 95% CI, –0.18 to –0.01; P < .05 for all estimates), according to the researchers, who noted that the excess in decline was equivalent to approximately 4 years of aging.

At each 4-year interval, those with AF had significantly greater declines in grip strength, 2-minute walk distance and 400-m walk time than those without AF, they found.

“Small declines in physical performance in older adults may have big consequences,” Magnani said in the release. “The declines that we observed in participants with [AF] are associated with increased frailty, which can result in loss of independence, decreased mobility, poorer quality of life, institutionalization and death.” by Erik Swain

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.