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BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation (AF) has a higher prevalence in men than in women and is associated with measures of adiposity and lean mass (LM). However, it remains uncertain whether the risks of AF associated with these measures vary by sex. METHODS: Among 477 904 UK Biobank participants aged 40-69 without prior AF, 23 134 incident AF cases were identified (14 400 men, 8734 women; median follow-up 11.1 years). Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate the covariate adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) describing the association of AF with weight, measures of adiposity [fat mass (FM), waist circumference (WC)] and LM, and their independent relevance, by sex. RESULTS: Weight and WC were independently associated with risk of AF [HR: 1.25 (1.23-1.27) per 10 kg, HR: 1.11 (1.09-1.14) per 10 cm, respectively], with comparable effects in both sexes. The association with weight was principally driven by LM, which, per 5 kg, conferred double the risk of AF compared with FM when mutually adjusted [HR: 1.20 (1.19-1.21), HR: 1.10 (1.09-1.11), respectively]; however, the effect of LM was weaker in men than in women (p-interaction = 4.3 x 10-9). Comparing the relative effects of LM, FM and WC identified different patterns within each sex; LM was the strongest predictor for both, whereas WC was stronger than FM in men but not in women. CONCLUSIONS: LM and FM (as constituents of weight) and WC are risk factors for AF. However, the independent relevance of general adiposity for AF was more limited in men than in women. The relevance of both WC and LM suggests a potentially important role for visceral adiposity and muscle mass in AF development.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Epidemiol

Publication Date





984 - 995


Atrial fibrillation, UK Biobank, adiposity, obesity, sex, Adiposity, Atrial Fibrillation, Body Mass Index, Female, Humans, Male, Obesity, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors, Waist Circumference