Introduction: both atrial fibrillation (AF) and frailty are increasingly prevalent with age. Cross-sectional studies have suggested a relationship between AF and frailty, but longitudinal data are lacking. We explored if the presence of AF was associated with accelerated progression of frailty over 8 years in community-dwelling older adults. Methods: a longitudinal retrospective case-control study was conducted using data from Waves 1 and 5 of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). Participants with electrocardiographically detected AF at Wave 1 were matched to controls without AF (1:2) based on age and gender. Frailty was assessed using both the frailty phenotype (FP) and a 31-item frailty index (FI). Change in cases' and controls' FP and FI scores from Waves 1 to 5 were modelled using repeated measures analysis of variance (RM-ANOVA). Results: one hundred eighteen TILDA participants with AF at Wave 1 were matched to 236 controls. By FP, participants with AF were not significantly more frail than controls at Wave 1 (P = 0.166) but were at Wave 5 (P = 0.011), and RM-ANOVA suggested that frailty progressed more in participants with AF between Waves 1 and 5 compared with controls (P = 0.033). By FI, participants with AF were significantly more frail at Wave 1 (P < 0.001) and 5 (P = 0.010), and RM-ANOVA did not show a difference in frailty progression between groups (P = 0.955). Conclusion: AF may drive the development of the FP. The FP is a pre-disability syndrome and hence may be better than the FI as a focus for disability prevention in adults with AF.
Age and Ageing