The Swedish study, presented at EuroPrevent 2017, followed over 1.5m women for up to 30 years, who were stratified into four groups based on their body surface area, calculated based on height and weight.
Over 7,000 were hospitalised with AF over the study period. Those in the lowest body surface area had a 1.16, 1.55 and 2.61 times increased risk of AF than those in the second, third and highest groups, respectively.
Comparing women in the highest and lowest groups, those in the former were 9cm taller and 28kg heavier on average.
It follows research in men by the same team that showed having a large body size at age 20, and gain significant weight from the age of 20, were both independently associated with an increased risk of AF.
Lead author Professor Annika Rosengren said: ‘Atrial fibrillation is the result of obesity-related metabolic changes but there is also a second cause. Big people – not necessarily fat, but big – have a larger atrium, which is where atrial fibrillation comes from. People with a bigger atrium have a higher risk of atrial fibrillation.
‘For older women and men, being big could be an indicator that you are at increased risk of atrial fibrillation. If you are very tall, I think that it could be a good idea to avoid accumulating excess weight. That would apply to both men and women.’
Photo: JH Lancy