Atrial fibrillation among white populations

My mother is a registered nurse working in the emergency room, so I asked her opinion of what she found to be the most common disease among people of typically European (white) background. Cardiovascular disease and atrial fibrillation were her suggestions, but cardiovascular disease is actually most prevalent among those who identify themselves as African-American. Atrial fibrillation, however, is the most prevalent among white populations.

Prevalence of Atrial Fibrillation by Race and Age

 (source: National Stroke Association,

Atrial Fibrillation is a condition the electrical signals or pathways occurring in the atria (top of the heart) are abnormal and erratic, resulting in an irregular heartbeat. When an irregular heartbeat occurs, the atria cannot contract correctly and as a result blood flow is reduced by their quivering. In 15 to 20 percent of strokes, atrial fibrillation is the cause. (source: Center for Heart Rhythm Disorders,

In interesting aspect of Atrial Fibrillation is that while the disorder is consistently most prevalent among white populations, those of African-American ethnicity are still less likely to be diagnosed or treat the disorder even when they have it. In 2010, the American Stroke Association conducted a study called REGARDS thought found that “Electrocardiograms [ECG] done at the start of the REGARDS study showed 432 people (88 black and 344 white) in the study group had atrial fibrillation”, however, “blacks were approximately one third as likely to be aware that they had AF as whites”. This seems to indicate that the prevalence of AF among whites is largely genetic, but differences in diagnosis and treatment favoring white populations increases the disparity. (source: American Stroke Association,

Race, genetics, and health are intertwined in an intricate way, and this is especially true considering the debate over the existence of race. When drugs such as Bidil seem to be more beneficial to groups who identify themselves as African-American, race seems to exist. However, one has to identify as such, it is not the result of a medical test. The cultural complications of economic gain and past influences such as the eugenics project further complicate the issue. Genetically, health can be affected both positively and negatively. This is especially visible among African populations at constant risk of malaria. Those carrying a single sickle-cell gene are protected from the disease, however, two protected parents may produce a child with crippling sickle cell anemia. Consistently, race (social factors) and genetics weigh heavily upon one’s health.



Leave a Reply