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Irregular heart rate more deadly in women

Irregular heart rate more deadly in women
25th January 2016

New research has found that women who suffer with an irregular heartbeat are more likely to develop heart disease and die, compared to men.

The study, conducted by a team at Oxford University, looked at the findings of 30 trials between 1996 and 2015. By analysing the data that included more than four million people, the researchers were able to determine that women are at a significantly increased risk of death if they had an specific type of irregular heartbeat - atrial fibrillation (AF).

It found that women with AF were more likely to die for any reason than men with the condition (12 per cent higher). In addition, their risk of suffering heart-related trauma was also significantly increased, compared to their male counterparts.

Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the findings suggest that women with the heart condition are almost twice as likely to experience a stroke and have almost double the risk of having a heart disease-related death than men with the same condition.

Being diagnosed with AF also saw the risk of developing heart failure increase by 16 per cent for women, compared to males.

According to the study's authors, it is unclear why there is such a difference in the level of risk for men and women with the heart condition, but they hoped it would encourage people to pursue more aggressive treatment for women.

In people with AF, the upper chambers of the heart randomly contract, which means the muscle is unable to relax properly between contractions and heart rate can beat over 100 beats a minute. A normal resting heartbeat is between 60 and 100 beats a minute.

June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Currently AF is often undiagnosed and under-treated in both women and men. This study suggests greater attention should be given to the identification of AF in women.

"It's important that healthcare services for the prevention and treatment of AF take into account the different effects of gender on the condition."

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