The incidence of atrial fibrillation (AF) increases with age. Telomere length is considered a marker of biological ageing. We investigated the association between leukocyte telomere length and incident AF in the Dutch Prevention of Renal and Vascular End-stage Disease (PREVEND) study.
We included 7775 individuals without prevalent AF, and with leukocyte telomere length measured. Mean telomere length was determined by a monochrome multiplex quantitative polymerase chain reaction-based assay.
Mean age of our cohort was 49 +/- 13 years, and 50% were men. During a mean follow-up of 11.4 +/- 2.9 years incident AF was detected in 367 (4.7%) individuals. Telomere length was shorter in individuals developing incident AF compared to those without AF (p = 0.013). Incident AF was inversely related to the telomere length. In the quartile with the longest telomere length 68 (3.5%) individuals developed AF, in the shortest telomere length quartile 100 (5.1%) individuals (p = 0.032). Telomere length was associated with incident AF in the second shortest telomere length quartile using the longest telomere length quartile as reference (hazard ratio 1.64; 95% CI 1.02-2.66; p = 0.043). After including age or AF risk factors, the relation between telomere length and incident AF was no longer significant. We found a significant interaction of age, male sex, systolic blood pressure, BMI, heart failure, and myocardial infarction with telomere length for the association with incident AF.
We found that shorter leukocyte telomere length is not independently associated with incident AF in a community-based cohort.