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Keywords:

  • centenarians;
  • elderly;
  • electrocardiogram;
  • atrial fibrillation;
  • case-matched study

Backround: Centenarians have been proposed as a model of successful aging but recent studies suggest a high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases. Some findings on their electrocardiograms (ECGs) are simply age-related and others mirror underlying diseases. We aimed to identify ECG features truly associated with extreme age.

Methods: Retrospective analysis of 55 centenarians hospitalized between January 2000 and June 2010. Each centenarian was matched with three octogenarians according to gender, presence of hypertension, aortic stenosis, heart failure, and ischemic heart disease.

Results: A history of hypertension was present in 32 (58%) centenarians, aortic stenosis in 6 (11%), heart failure in 8 (15%), and ischemic heart disease in 6 (11%). Centenarians had a higher heart rate than octogenarians (81 ± 15 bpm vs. 72 ± 15 bpm, respectively, P  <  0.001) but were less frequently on beta-blockers (7% vs. 36%, respectively, P < 0.001). Centenarians displayed more frequently atrial premature beats than octogenarians (18% vs. 3%, respectively, P < 0.001) but tended to have less atrial fibrillation (15% vs. 22% respectively, P = 0.21). Centenarians had more frequently left QRS axis deviation (48% vs. 28%, P = 0.009) and Q waves (14% vs. 1%, P = 0.02). QT interval was more prolonged in centenarians (446 ± 42 ms vs. 429 ± 39 ms, P = 0.008). Two centenarians (4%) and 24 (15%) octogenarians had a strictly normal ECG (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: Abnormal ECG is a common finding in centenarians, with different characteristics than in younger elderly individuals. These differences are unrelated to the presence of cardiac diseases.