Atrial and ventricular arrhythmias in asymptomatic active elderly subjects: Correlation with left atrial size and left ventricular mass
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Elderly normal subjects have an increased prevalence of cardiac arrhythmias compared with young and middle-aged subjects. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that the incidence and complexity of atrial and ventricular arrhythmias may be related to either left atrial enlargement or to increased left ventricular mass, respectively. From 146 asymptomatic volunteers older than 60 years, 86 subjects were considered to be free of cardiovascular abnormalities and had adequate M-mode echocardiograms and 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiograms. The mean age was 72 +/- 7 years, with a range of 60 to 96 years. There were 37 men and 49 women. During 1415 +/- 73 minutes of ambulatory electrocardiography, the average heart rate was 72 +/- 8 beats/min in men and 76 +/- 6 beats/min in women (p less than 0.05). Atrial arrhythmias were present in 64 subjects (74%); the frequency and complexity of these arrhythmias correlated with left atrial size (p less than 0.01). Ventricular arrhythmias were present in 55 subjects (64%); the frequency and complexity of ventricular arrhythmias did not correlate with left ventricular mass index. These results suggest that left atrial dilatation, a normal development in healthy elderly subjects, plays a significant role in the pathophysiology of the increased incidence of atrial arrhythmias. Increased left ventricular mass, which also occurs normally in the aging heart, is not, on the other hand, associated with an increased frequency and/or complexity of ventricular arrhythmias.
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