What we aim to do in BEAT-AFib
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF) is the most common heart arrhythmia seen in practice. However, we do not currently have a good way of identifying patients who are most at risk for developing AFib, nor are we able to identify who might progress to having more frequent episodes in patients already diagnosed with AFib. While we have ways to treat AFib, we are still looking for strategies for preventing AFib from occurring in the first place. Therefore, in this novel study, we aim to fill in these gaps and identify the various factors that contribute to AFib development and progression. We are studying biomarkers—molecules in the blood that might be an indicator of risk. You can think of cholesterol as a biomarker for developing coronary disease; but, we don’t currently have a “cholesterol” for AFib. We hope to change that.
We are also looking at other potential markers, other than those that might be found in the blood. For example, we are studying subtle structural changes of the heart via imaging (using echocardiography and MRI in some participants) that might predate the occurrence of AFib. We are also studying electrical abnormalities from ECGs using a new approach of recording high-resolution ECGs to pick up subtle signals not present on a standard ECG. We are also interested in how behaviors (eg. sleep, exercise, and stress) might affect the risk as well. Together, we are contributing to a growing body of research that will help us better understand the development and progression of AFib.
Since the BEAT-AFib study began in September 2020, we have enrolled 176 patients. Together, our research participants have helped us collect 7,508 Kardia AliveCor ECG recordings, 29,280 hours of VivaLNK patch ECG data, and 192 high-resolution ECGs (at baseline and follow-up visits). Since our last update in December, we have collected 4,063 Kardia AliveCor ECG recordings, 16,032 hours of VivaLNK patch ECG data, and 101 high-resolution ECGs. We are still recruiting new participants to match our three groups (those with AFib, those with AFib risk factors, and controls).
Who are our participants?
The average age of the BEAT-Fib study participants is 66 years, and 56.7% of participants are male. 50% of our participants have AFib and 50% do not have a history of AFib. We hope to be able to use data to find new predictors of developing AFib or developing more progressive forms of AFib. Looking at the distribution of common AFib risk factors amongst our non-AFib study population, 82% of our participants have a history of hypertension (high blood pressure), 74% of our population are age 65 or older, and 49% have a BMI over 30 kg/cm.
The 15-minute High-Resolution Signal Average ECG
Some of you have asked why the ECGs in our study take so long. In our study, we conduct a 15-minute high-resolution signal average ECG in BEAT-AFib, which is longer than the normal one that you may be used to. In patients with atrial fibrillation or at risk of developing atrial fibrillation, we are most interested in studying the P wave of an ECG, which represents the electrical activity in the atria (top chambers of the heart). By utilizing a 15-minute ECG, we can collect enough data to identify very small signals that may not show up on a normal ECG. With your contribution, our study hopes to collect sufficient P wave ECG data to find new features of the P wave that can identify patients at risk of AFib development or progression. To learn and read more about the 15-minute high-resolution signal average ECG, you can click the link below.
AFib Research Update
Since our last newsletter several months ago, our colleagues at UCSF have started new research projects and published papers on atrial fibrillation. Click the button to check out what we’ve been up to!