Women with atrial fibrillation are at significantly higher risk of stroke and death compared to men

September 22, 2009

Even though the incidence of atrial fibrillation is higher in men than women, a review of past studies and medical literature completed by cardiac experts at Rush University Medical Center shows that women are more likely than men to experience symptomatic attacks, a higher frequency of recurrences, and significantly higher heart rates during atrial fibrillation, which increases the risk of stroke.

Findings from the review of past studies will be published in the September issue of Gender Medicine.

is a cardiovascular disorder affecting 2.2 million people in the United States. During atrial fibrillation, the heart's atria, which are two small upper chambers, quiver instead of beating effectively.

Blood isn't pumped completely out of the atria, so it may pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results.

In recent years, have surpassed men in both prevalence and mortality due to cardiovascular disease.

"Stroke is one of the most devastating results of cardiovascular disease and atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke," said Dr. Annabelle Volgman, medical director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center and principal investigator of the study. "Women are at higher risk of atrial fibrillation-related stroke than men and are more likely to live with stroke-related disability which can significantly lower quality of life."

"We reviewed past studies addressing in atrial fibrillation over a 20 year period in order to pinpoint the gender differences for women versus men with atrial fibrillation. As a result, we were able to determine the most rational, safe and effective gender-specific approach to therapy for women," said Volgman.

Researchers identified the following gender differences for women versus men with atrial fibrillation and developed the following management recommendations:

  • Women have a higher incidence of stroke and mortality than do men.

    Emphasize therapies to prevent atrial fibrillation and ensure safe management once diagnosed.

  • Women are not prescribed blood thinners (anticoagulation therapy) as often as are men, which results in a higher incidence of formation of that break loose and block other vessels.

    Assess the risk/benefit ratio individually for each woman with atrial fibrillation.

  • Women have a greater risk of bleeding from anticoagulation therapy than do men.

    Monitor anticoagulation therapy carefully to avoid bleeding.

  • Women have a higher risk of life-threatening arrhythmias and slow heart rates requiring permanent pacing when treated with antiarrhythmic drugs.

    Monitor female patients taking antiarrhythmia drugs carefully.

  • Women have hormonal fluctuations.

    Be aware that hormonal fluctuations during the normal menstrual cycle can cause more life-threatening arrhythmias.

  • Women have a higher risk of low potassium levels in the blood, increasing the risk of drug-related arrhythmias.

    Monitor serum and potassium levels carefully.

  • Women have a higher sensitivity to supportive therapies such as statins and vasodilators.

    Pay close attention to hepatic and renal function.

  • Women are referred less often or later for non-drug management such as pacemaker implantation or ablation.

    Remember that ablative therapy is an option for symptomatic women because of similar success rates in men.

  • Women with atrial fibrillation have a lower quality of life.

    Careful assessment of symptoms, symptom relief, and adequate rate control or rhythm control can improve quality of life.

"For women with atrial fibrillation, these gender differences should always be kept in mind to help prevent strokes and heart failure and improve their quality of life," said Volgman.

Source: Rush University Medical Center (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Three million Americans carry loaded handguns daily, study finds

October 19, 2017
An estimated 3 million adult American handgun owners carry a firearm loaded and on their person on a daily basis, and 9 million do so on a monthly basis, new research indicates. The vast majority cited protection as their ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.