Atrial fibrillation(AFib), one of the most common types of heart arrhythmias, has long been considered more common in men.
But in a study from Cedars-Sinai Hospital and Harvard University, scientists found that when height is accounted for, women are actually more likely than men to have Atrial fibrillation.
This is a major shift in traditional thinking about the condition, which can result in stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.
In the study, the team found that when height was accounted for, women were 50% more likely than men to develop AFib in their lives.
But while women may be more at risk, there are many other risk factors for developing the condition—and some risk factors have a much stronger link to AFib.
Treatment of AFib in women comes with big differences compared to men. The risk of stroke due to AFib is higher in women, and they may need blood thinners sooner than men to prevent them.
Also, certain medications to prevent AFib may be more dangerous in women than in men and are associated with a higher risk of dangerous heart rhythm problems in the bottom chambers of the heart.
AFib is characterized by a rapid, irregular heartbeat in the upper chambers of the heart.
Normally, a heartbeat starts in one spot called the sinus node in the upper chambers of the heart, and travels down special electrical wires to the bottom chambers.
When a patient is in AFib, the upper chambers of the heart “quiver” instead of beat, with a rapid rhythm coming from all over the upper chambers instead of one spot.
Engelstein said people with AFib may have severe symptoms immediately upon developing it, while others can live for months or years without knowing that they have the condition.
About half the patients may not have any symptoms at the beginning, and half the patients will feel it the second they go into atrial fibrillation.
Other patients don’t feel the actual atrial fibrillation but rather feel its consequences, including symptoms like shortness of breath with exertion, fatigue, lightheadedness, or chest discomfort.
AFib may occur for a period of time and then go away, but it often recurs if left untreated.
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The study was conducted by Erica Engelstein et al and published in JAMA Cardiology.
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