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    Atrial Fibrillation Raises Death Risk for Middle-Aged Women

    Study Shows Increased Risk of Death for Women Who Are Newly Diagnosed With Atrial Fibrillation

    Tracking Risks of Atrial Fibrillation

    Conen and colleagues evaluated nearly 35,000 women enrolled in the Women's Health Study from 1993 to 2010. All were over age 45 when they enrolled in the study. The median age was 53 (half were younger, half older).

    During a median follow-up of 15.4 years, 1,011 women developed the abnormal rhythm. There were 1,602 deaths from all causes, including 63 deaths in women with newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation.

    After taking age into account, the risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular causes, was significantly higher among the women who developed atrial fibrillation than those who did not.

    One take-home point of the study, Conen tells WebMD, is for women newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation to pay attention to co-existing risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

    Trying to prevent the abnormal heart rhythm from developing in the first place is important too, says Conan, who reports receiving research grants from Boehringer Ingelheim, Novartis, and Sanofi-Aventis

    Besides controlling weight and blood pressure, it is important not to smoke, to keep cholesterol at healthy levels, and to control diabetes if it occurs, says Tsang, who is also director of cardiovascular research at Vancouver General Hospital.

    Until this study "we actually knew very little about this condition in middle-aged women," she says. "Newly identified [atrial fibrillation] in seemingly healthy women should be taken seriously and treated aggressively."

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