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A Blood Test to Detect Atrial Fibrillation Risks

Update Date: Oct 03, 2014 07:10 PM EDT

A blood test to determine those at risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) could be in the offing as researchers have identified genetic markers that can show risks before onset of the condition.

According to Science Daily, researchers at Lund University in Sweden, in collaboration with hospitals and research institutions in US and Europe, identified 12 genetic variants in the human genome associated with increased risk for AF. The long-term study involved 27,400 participants.

"One in five people have a genetic weakness that means they have twice as high a risk of developing atrial fibrillation as those with a low genetic risk. This genetic risk is therefore one of the strongest risk factors for atrial fibrillation that we know of in people without overt cardiac disease. It increases the risk as much as high blood pressure, for example", said Olle Melander, Professor of Internal Medicine at Lund University.

Medical Xpress reported that atrial flutter increases risks of heart strokes, and may not always show symptoms. A blood test could show better risks before the condition sets in.

"In patients who are suspected of having temporary but recurrent episodes of atrial fibrillation, or in people with high blood pressure, it can be important for doctors to look at their genetic predisposition using a blood test. The test can give guidance as to how often and how intensively doctors need to screen for presence of atrial fibrillation in these individuals. We also consider that more widespread treatment of high blood pressure may be justified in those with a high genetic risk of atrial fibrillation", Professor Melander said.

Researchers have also shown benefits when AF is diagnosed. They said that the testing can show whether someone aged under 65 requires anticoagulants to prevent heart strokes when AF is present. Those with AF have an increased stroke risk of 70 percent if they also have the said genes. 

The findings have been published in the journal Stroke

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