Research findings from Emory University School of Medicine found a unique link between oxidative stress and enlargement of the left atrium of the heart. This phenomenon may very well lead to atrial fibrillation, a life-threatening condition of the heart. This is the state when the heart rhythm goes very erratic and irregular.
The risk factors for the onset of atrial fibrillation include hypertension, diabetes, obesity, smoking and previous or existing heart disorders. Atrial fibrillation is also a key risk factor in the development of stroke due to the ineffective heart pumping action it causes. In effect, blood pools within the atria, which are the upper chambers in the heart. This can lead to blood clots and other life-threatening cardiac complications.
Oxidative stress is the state when an imbalance in the metabolism of cells occurs together with an existing cardiac disease. With this phenomenon, the body is unable to regulate certain reactive oxygen species that will lead to heart enlargement and other health problems.
According to the study, measuring oxidative stress actually predicts the risk of atrial fibrillation. Nima Ghasemzadeh, a cardiology researcher from Emory, along with the whole research team, studied 629 patients who underwent cardiac catheterization. Out of the 629 patients, 38 developed atrial fibrillation. At the start of the study, those with high blood levels of cystine, which is an amino acid, were 2 times more at risk to experience atrial fibrillation.
The researchers collaborated with Dean Jones, Ph.D., a professor of medicine and director of the Emory Clinical Biomarkers laboratory. The team studied about the functions and roles of cystine, which is the oxidized form of cysteine, a non-essential antioxidant and amino acid. Because it is found within the blood, measuring cysteine can be performed readily.
“Our results suggest that increased oxidative stress promotes remodeling of the heart and enlargement of the left atrium, which can increase the likelihood of atrial fibrillation,” Ghasemzadeh says. “Studies targeting oxidative stress markers may have a valuable effect in reducing atrial fibrillation risk.”