(HealthDay News) – Major and minor electrocardiographic (ECG) abnormalities are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) events, particularly in elderly individuals.

To investigate the association between baseline, new, and persistent ECG abnormalities and CHD events, Reto Auer, MD, from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, and colleagues conducted a population-based study of 2,192 older adults, aged 70–79 years, from the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study. Over eight years, adjudicated CHD events (acute myocardial infarction, CHD death, and hospitalization for angina or coronary revascularization) were recorded. ECG abnormalities were classified at baseline and four years.

During follow-up, the researchers found that 351 participants had CHD events. After adjusting for traditional risk factors, baseline major and minor ECG abnormalities correlated with an increased risk of CHD (hazard ratios, 1.35 for those with minor abnormalities and 1.51 for those with major abnormalities). Addition of ECG abnormalities to a model containing traditional risk factors resulted in correct reclassification of 13.6% of intermediate-risk participants with major and minor ECG abnormalities. The risk of subsequent CHD events was increased in those with new and persistent ECG abnormalities.

“Given the safety, the low cost, and the wide availability of ECG, ECG data might be useful to improve CHD risk prediction in older adults,” the authors write. “Whether ECG should be incorporated in routine screening of older adults should be evaluated in randomized controlled trials.”

Two of the authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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