Women, Get Your Heartbeat Checked

Atrial fibrillation in women may increase stroke, heart disease, heart failure risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Women's hearts are not the same as men's when it comes to a condition called atrial fibrillation (Afib).

A new study from an international team of researchers found that, in women, an irregular heartbeat may be a stronger risk factor for stroke and other problems than it is in men.

Connor A. Emdin, a PhD student in population health at the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford in England, led this study. He and his colleagues studied a particular kind of irregular heartbeat called Afib.

AFib occurs when the heart's electrical system sends disorganized impulses to the upper chambers of the heart. These chambers, called atria, respond by trying to beat rapidly and irregularly.

This condition increases the risk of stroke and death in both men and women. The risk factors for heart disease don't always affect women and men in the same way, however.

The authors of this study wanted to look at the differences in how Afib affected men and women. Emdin and colleagues looked at 30 past studies that included more than 4 million patients.

The study data included links between gender and death from any cause, as well as death from heart disease, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure.

These researchers found that Afib in women appeared to increase the risk of death from any cause by 12 percent more than it did in men. AFib in women also appeared to increase the risk of stroke, death from heart disease, heart attacks and heart failure.

Emdin and colleagues noted that their results don't indicate Afib causes death and heart disease in women — just that these factors are linked.

A specific risk score for Afib should be developed for women, these researchers said. They also called for further research to study the underlying reasons for differences between the sexes when it comes to Afib.

This study was published in the January issue of The BMJ. This study received no outside funding. Study co-author Dr. Mark Woodward reported consultancy fees from Amgen and Novartis, which make drugs used to treat heart disease.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 18, 2016
Last Updated:
January 19, 2016