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Type 2 diabetes, glucose homeostasis and incident atrial fibrillation: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study
  1. Rachel R Huxley1,
  2. Alvaro Alonso1,
  3. Faye L Lopez1,
  4. Kristian B Filion1,
  5. Sunil K Agarwal2,
  6. Laura R Loehr2,
  7. Elsayed Z Soliman3,
  8. James S Pankow1,
  9. Elizabeth Selvin4
  1. 1Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Epidemiological Cardiology Research Center (EPICARE), Department of Epidemiology and Prevention, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston Salem, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Welch Center for Prevention and Clinical Research, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rachel Huxley, Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, 1300 S 2nd St, suite 300. Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA; rhuxley{at}


Background Type 2 diabetes has been inconsistently associated with the risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) in previous studies that have frequently been beset by methodological challenges.

Design Prospective cohort study.

Setting The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study.

Participants Detailed medical histories were obtained from 13 025 participants. Individuals were categorised as having no diabetes, pre-diabetes or diabetes based on the 2010 American Diabetes Association criteria at study baseline (1990–2).

Main outcome measures Diagnoses of incident AF were obtained to the end of 2007. Associations between type 2 diabetes and markers of glucose homeostasis and the incidence of AF were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models after adjusting for possible confounders.

Results Type 2 diabetes was associated with a significant increase in the risk of AF (HR 1.35, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.60) after adjustment for confounders. There was no indication that individuals with pre-diabetes or those with undiagnosed diabetes were at increased risk of AF compared with those without diabetes. A positive linear association was observed between HbA1c and the risk of AF in those with and without diabetes (HR 1.13, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.20) and HR 1.05, 95% CI 0.96 to 1.15 per 1% point increase, respectively). There was no association between fasting glucose or insulin in those without diabetes, but a significant association with fasting glucose was found in those with the condition. The results were similar in white subjects and African-Americans.

Conclusions Diabetes, HbA1c level and poor glycaemic control are independently associated with an increased risk of AF, but the underlying mechanisms governing the relationship are unknown and warrant further investigation.

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • risk factors
  • macrovascular disease
  • smoking
  • metabolic medicine
  • epidemiology
  • arrhythmias
  • brugada
  • QT interval
  • heart rate variability
  • sudden cardiac death

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  • Funding The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study is carried out as a collaborative study supported by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute contracts N01-HC-55015, N01-HC-55016, N01-HC-55018, N01-HC-55019, N01-HC-55020, N01-HC-55021, and N01-HC-55022. This work was additionally supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant RC1HL099452 and American Heart Association grant 09SDG2280087.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study protocol was approved by the institutional review boards at each site and informed consent was obtained from all study participants.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.