Atrial fibrillation stronger risk factor for women than men

20 January 2016        

Category: BHF Comment

Grey body with red heart

Researchers at the University of Oxford have published new findings that an irregular heartbeat is a stronger risk factor for heart disease in women than it is in men.

The research, which was published in the British Medical Journal, involved looking at studies conducted in more than 4 million patients and found that women with atrial fibrillation (AF), a common and often symptomless irregularity of the heart rhythm, are more likely to suffer future heart attacks and strokes than men. 

While the reasons for this are not clear, the study draws attention to the fact that heart disease is common in women and that AF is an early warning signal of an unhealthy heart.

We have invested substantially in AF research and have campaigned hard to raise awareness of the risks of heart disease in women.

Find out more about BHF Professor Barbara Casadei who is a world-leading AF researcher at the University of Oxford.

Our thoughts on the study

Our Senior Cardiac Nurse, June Davison, said:

"It’s well established that atrial fibrillation, or AF, is associated with an increased risk of stroke and death in men and women. This research identifies that this risk is greater in women than in men. However the reasons for this are unclear.

"Currently AF is often undiagnosed and undertreated 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. More research is needed to find out more about the underlying causes of these differences and the BHF is currently funding millions of pounds of research into better understanding and treating AF."

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