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Can J Cardiol. 2013 Jul;29(7 Suppl):S4-S13. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2013.03.009.

Recent developments in understanding epidemiology and risk determinants of atrial fibrillation as a cause of stroke.

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University of Birmingham Centre for Cardiovascular Sciences, City Hospital, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


The prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF) is increasing because of the aging population and advances in the treatment of acute cardiac conditions. It is now approaching epidemic proportions and is associated with significant clinical and public health consequences. Risk factors for the development of AF are numerous and varied and highlight potential treatment measures that could help prevent the occurrence of AF. The emergence of novel risk factors might allow us to increase our understanding of the pathophysiology of the condition and develop novel therapeutic targets. Stroke is the most devastating consequence of AF, and can be prevented with effective oral anticoagulation in patients at increased stroke risk. Our understanding of stroke risk has advanced; we know that the risk is not homogenous and also that only the very lowest risk patients do not benefit from anticoagulation. Clinicians should target their efforts on identifying this "truly low-risk" patient cohort and consider offering formal anticoagulation to all other AF patients. The purpose of this review is to consider the traditional and emerging risk factors for the development of AF itself, and the risk factors for stroke in AF patients and how knowledge of these risk factors can affect clinical practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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