Irregular Heart Beat May Be Riskier For Women
Review found atrial fibrillation linked to higher risk of stroke, heart trouble, death in women
By Dennis Thompson
TUESDAY, Jan. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The world's most common type of abnormal heart rhythm appears to pose a greater health threat to women than men, a new review suggests.
Atrial fibrillation is a stronger risk factor for stroke, heart disease, heart failure and death in women than it is in men, according to an analysis published online Jan. 19 in the BMJ.
Atrial fibrillation occurs when rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the heart's two upper chambers -- the atria -- to contract in a herky-jerky manner, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The condition is most often associated with an increased risk of stroke, because the irregular rhythm allows blood to pool and clot in the atria.
But women with atrial fibrillation are twice as likely to suffer a stroke than men with the condition are, researchers concluded after reviewing evidence from 30 studies involving 4.3 million patients.
Women with atrial fibrillation also are 93 percent more likely to die from a heart condition, 55 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack, 16 percent more likely to develop heart failure and 12 percent more likely to die from any cause, when compared to men, the investigators found.
"This study adds to a growing body of literature showing that women may experience cardiovascular diseases and risk factors differently than men," said review author Connor Emdin, a doctoral student in cardiovascular epidemiology at the University of Oxford's George Institute for Global Health, in England.
Atrial fibrillation is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke worldwide, with an estimated 33.5 million people affected in 2010, the researchers pointed out.
Women may do worse with atrial fibrillation because their symptoms aren't as apparent as those in men, said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women's heart health for the Heart and Vascular Institute at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"It's reasonable to consider that it's diagnosed later, or it's not as recognized or that the symptoms are not the same," Steinbaum said.
Women might wave off symptoms like fatigue or shortness of breath, chalking them up to stress or feeling tired rather than seeing them as warning signs for heart disease, she said.