Women with Atrial Fibrillation Have a Higher Risk of Stroke and Death

September 30, 2009 5:21 AM CT

We already know that more men than women have atrial fibrillation, but that women have a higher rate of strokes and death, with women accounting for about 61% of stroke deaths.

A recent research study at Rush University Medical Center reviewed findings from past studies and found additional implications of atrial fibrillation on women. This study will be published in the September issue of Gender Medicine.

Cardiologist Dr. Annabelle Volgman, principal investigator on the study, said,

We reviewed past studies addressing gender differences 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.

Researchers identified nine differences, finding that women generally:

  • Have higher incidence of stroke and death
  • Do not receive blood thinners (anticoagulation) as often, resulting in more risk of blood clots
  • Have a greater risk of bleeding from blood thinners
  • Experience greater risk of life-threatening arrhythmias and slow heart rates from antiarrhythmic drugs
  • Have normal hormonal fluctuation that can cause more life-threatening arrhythmias
  • Have a higher risk of low potassium levels, increasing the risk of drug-related arrhythmias
  • Are more sensitive to statin and vasodilator drugs
  • Are referred less often, or later, for ablation or  pacemakers
  • Experience a lower quality of life from atrial fibrillation

These findings identify the areas in which doctors need to more closely manage the treatment of their female atrial fibrillation patients.

Read more about the study at:  Women with Atrial Fibrillation Are at Significantly Higher Risk of Stroke and Death Compared to Men and Receive Less Attention