In a new study from the University of Bern, researchers found adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and atrial fibrillation were less likely to notice symptoms of irregular heartbeat, more likely to have a lower quality of life.
At least 2.7 million Americans live with atrial fibrillation, often called AFib, which is an irregular heartbeat or arrythmia that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.
Chronic health conditions including type 1 or type 2 diabetes, asthma, and hyperthyroidism are known to increase the risk of AFib.
In the study, the team tested 2,411 patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation who were enrolled at 14 health care centers in Switzerland from 2014 to 2017.
About 17% of the study participants were diagnosed with diabetes, according to their medical records and if they were taking any diabetes medications.
To determine how diabetes may affect AFib patients, researchers compared AFib symptoms, quality of life outcomes, cardiac comorbidities, and neurological comorbidities among participants with and without diabetes.
They found compared to people with AFib who did not have diabetes:
People with diabetes were about 25% less likely than those without diabetes to recognize common symptoms of atrial fibrillation such as a rapid heartbeat;
People with diabetes were three times more likely than those without diabetes to have high blood pressure; 55% more likely to have had heart attacks; and about twice as likely to have heart failure; and
People with diabetes had a 39% increased stroke risk and were 75% more likely to have cognitive impairment.
The team says the reduced perception of atrial fibrillation symptoms may result in a delayed diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, and, consequently, more complications such as stroke.
The findings raise the question of whether patients with diabetes should be routinely screened for atrial fibrillation.
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The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. One author of the study is Tobias Reichlin, M.D.
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