This month the BBC reported study findings suggesting than an irregular heartbeat poses a greater risk to women than men. This was following 30 studies involving more than 4 million people.
In patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), the heart's upper chambers (the atria) contract randomly. This is caused by disorganized electrical signals. Sometimes the atria contract so fast in a jerky manner, the heart muscle cannot relax properly between contractions, reducing its efficiency.
AF is the world’s most common type of abnormal heart rhythm and is a strong risk factor for stroke, heart disease and heart failure.
The worrying news for women with AF is that they are:
- Twice as likely to suffer a stroke
- 99% more likely to die of a heart condition
- 55% more likely to suffer a heart attack
- 16% more likely to develop heart failure
So why are women more at risk?
- Diagnosis is often delayed.Women might wave off symptoms like fatigue or shortness of breath, chalking them up to stress or feeling tired rather than seeing them as warning signs for heart disease.
- Women may respond less well to AF drugs or are being diagnosed later than men.
- AF may be more severe in women than in men.
- Women are more likely to suffer from other co-existing medical conditions.
AF is often diagnosed during a general health check (MOT) or even a simple mini-cardiac check. Ask your medical centre for details.