Atrial fibrillation: hypertension as a causative agent, risk factor for complications, and potential therapeutic target.
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Atrial fibrillation and hypertension are 2 prevalent, and often coexistent, conditions in the North American population. Their incidence increases with advancing age, and they are responsible for considerable morbidity and mortality. Although the relation between the 2 conditions has long been known, the treatment of hypertension is not currently a focus in the clinical management of atrial fibrillation. Hypertension is associated with left ventricular hypertrophy, impaired ventricular filling, left atrial enlargement, and slowing of atrial conduction velocity. These changes in cardiac structure and physiology favor the development of atrial fibrillation, and they increase the risk of thromboembolic complications. Conventional therapy of atrial fibrillation has focused on interventions to control heart rate and rhythm and the prevention of stroke through the use of anticoagulant medications. In patients with atrial fibrillation, aggressive treatment of hypertension may reverse the structural changes in the heart, reduce thromboembolic complications, and retard or prevent the occurrence of atrial fibrillation. Specific pharmacotherapy could potentially play a major role in the primary and secondary prevention of atrial fibrillation and its complications.
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