Objective: To examine the association between atrial fibrillation (AF) and aortic atherosclerosis in the general population. Subjects and Methods: Transesophageal echocardiography was performed in 581 subjects, a random sample of the adult Olmsted County, Minnesota, population (45 years of age or older) participating in the Stroke Prevention: Assessment of Risk in a Community (SPARC) study. The frequency of aortic atherosclerosis was determined in 42 subjects with AF and compared with that in 539 subjects without AF (non-AF group). Results: Subjects with AF were significantly older than non-AF subjects (mean ± SD age, 82±10 vs 66±13 years, respectively: P<.001) and more commonly had hypertension (28 [66.7%] vs 288 [53.4%], respectively; P=.10). The 2 groups were similar in sex and frequency of diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, or smoking history (P>.10). The odds of aortic atherosclerosis (of any degree) were 2.87 times greater (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.41-5.83; P=.004) and the odds of complex atherosclerosis (protruding atheroma <4 mm thick, mobile debris, or plaque ulceration) were 2.71 times greater (CI, 1.13-6.53; P=.03) in the AF group than in the non-AF group. Age was a significant predictor of aortic atherosclerosis (P<.001). After adjusting for age, the odds of atherosclerosis and complex atherosclerosis were not significantly different between the 2 groups (P=.13 and P=.75, respectively). Conclusions: In the general population, AF is associated with aortic atherosclerosis, including complex atherosclerosis. This association is related to age since both AF and aortic atherosclerosis are more frequent in the elderly population.
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