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Irregular Heartbeat Poses a Greater Threat to Women than Men, Study Says

Update Date: Jan 20, 2016 10:39 AM EST

Women are more likely to have health issues tied to irregular heartbeat than men, a new study reported.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition characterized by irregular electrical signals that cause the heart's atria, which are the two upper chamber, to contract in a jerky manner that is not coordinated with the contractions seen in the lower chambers (ventricles). Since heart rate affects blood flow, atrial fibrillation has been tied to an increased risk of stroke.

For this study, the researchers wanted to compare the risk of stroke and other heart conditions in men and women who have atrial fibrillation. The team analyzed 30 previously conducted studies that involved 4.3 million patients and found that women were two times more likely than men to suffer from a stroke.

Female patients were also 93 percent more likely than men to die from a cardiovascular condition. When it came to heart attacks and heart failure, women with atrial fibrillation had a 55 percent and 16 percent increased risk, respectively, than their male counterparts with the same heart condition. Overall, women with irregular heartbeat were 12 percent more likely than men to die from any kind of cause.

"This study adds to a growing body of literature showing that women may experience cardiovascular diseases and risk factors differently than men," said review author Connor Emdin reported by HealthDay via Philly.com.

The team did not find out what is causing the condition to lead to more deadly consequences in women than men but the researchers argue that it could be due to the fact that women generally are undertreated.

June Davison, from the British Heart Foundation, commented, reported by BBC News, "It is important that healthcare services for the prevention and treatment of AF take into account the different effects of gender on the condition. More research is needed to find out more about the underlying causes of these differences."

The study's findings were published in BMJ.

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