Having an irregular heartbeat is known to increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. However, a new study has found that this is a stronger risk factor in women.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) causes irregular and rapid heartbeats, which can make the heart less efficient at pumping blood around the body. This can lead to palpitations, breathlessness, dizziness, angina and the development of blood clots. However, there may be no symptoms, therefore a person may be unaware that they have it.
Over 33 million people worldwide are thought to be affected, including as many as 40,000 adults over the age of 50 in Ireland.
Increasing research appears to suggest that men and women experience heart risk factors differently, which has major implications for the diagnosis and treatment of heart-related conditions. UK researchers decided to look into this further in relation to AF.
They analysed 30 studies involving more than four million people and found that AF is a significantly stronger risk factor for stroke, heart disease, heart failure and death in women compared to men.
The researchers were unable to discover a clear reason for these findings, however they insisted that the results support the development of a specific risk score for AF in females.
They also suggested that ‘allocation of public health resources for prevention and treatment of AF should also consider the differential effects of AF by sex'.
Details of these findings are published in the British Medical Journal.