Atrial fibrillation becomes much more common the older we get. In particular, the risk increases when we reach the age of 65-70 and older. Although other predisposing factors also become more frequent with age – for example, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes – age is an independent predisposing factor.
Frequency of atrial fibrillation
- X: Age in years
- Y: AF prevalence in % of the population in the age group
European Heart Rhythm Association(EHRA)/Heart Rhythm Society (HRS)/AsiaPacific Heart Rhythm Society (APHRS)/LatinAmerican Heart Rhythm Society (LAHRS)expert consensus on risk assessment in cardiacarrhythmias: use the right tool for the rightoutcome, in the right population
We do not know for sure what causes the atrial fibrillation to become more frequent the older we get. On average, we have a greater tendency for extra beats (“failure beats” or “extrasystoles”), and since these are significant in triggering the atrial fibrillation, it may play a role. There are also changes in the nervous system that we do not have control over ourselves – what is called “the autonomic nervous system”, which can cause atrial fibrillation.
We estimate that the rising average age is the main reason why we can expect a 2-3 doubling in the number of people with atrial fibrillation over the next 20-30 years.