The prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF) is related to age. Anticoagulation is highly effective in preventing stroke in patients with AF, but the risk of hemorrhage may be increased in older patients. We reviewed the available epidemiologic data to define the age and sex distribution of people with AF. From four large recent population-based surveys, we estimated the overall age- and gender-specific prevalence of AF. These estimates were applied to the recent US census data to calculate the number of men and women with AF in each age group. There are an estimated 2.2 million people in the United States with AF, with a median age of about 75 years. The prevalence of AF is 2.3% in people older than 40 years and 5.9% in those older than 65 years. Approximately 70% of individuals with AF are between 65 and 85 years of age. The absolute number of men and women with AF is about equal. After age 75 years, about 60% of the people with AF are women. In contrast to people with AF in the general population, patients with AF in recent anticoagulation trials had a mean age of 69 years, and only 20% were older than 75 years. The risks and benefits of antithrombotic therapy in older individuals are important considerations in stroke prevention in AF.
(Arch Intern Med. 1995;155:469-473)