WEDNESDAY, Feb. 10, 2021 (HealthDay News) — There seems to be a causal relationship between increased blood pressure (BP) and a higher risk for atrial fibrillation (AF), according to a study published online Feb. 9 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Georgios Georgiopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., from King’s College London, and colleagues used Mendelian randomization (MR) to examine the potential causal association of BP levels with the risk for developing AF. Eight hundred ninety-four genetic variants associated with BP traits were assessed in a dedicated genome-wide association study of AF genetics, which included more than 1 million individuals of European ancestry. Two-sample MR analyses were used to examine the potential causal association of systolic BP (SBP) and diastolic BP (DBP) and of pulse pressure (PP) with AF.

The researchers identified a potentially causal association between AF and SBP (odds ratio, 1.018 per 1 mm Hg increase), DBP (odds ratio, 1.026), and PP (odds ratio, 1.014). In sensitivity analyses, these findings were robust. When single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with possible confounders of the causal relationship (coronary artery disease and obesity) were excluded, the causal relationship of BP and AF did not change.

“The results provide strong evidence of a causal relationship between blood pressure and atrial fibrillation,” Georgiopoulos said in a statement. “Using genetic information in the analyses minimizes the likelihood of reverse causality (i.e., that atrial fibrillation causes high blood pressure) or that other traits linked with atrial fibrillation (confounders) were responsible.”

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