Women with Diabetes are at Increased Risk for Irregular Heart Rhythm

CHR study on atrial fibrillation advances research in women’s cardiovascular health

(PORTLAND, Ore.)—Heart disease in women manifests differently than in men, yet women continue to be underrepresented in cardiovascular research. This dearth of knowledge means that female heart patients are generally treated like male heart patients—but this approach doesn’t always work. Certain heart disease treatments and medications don’t cross the gender divide. So we need more research in women’s cardiovascular care. Today we advance farther down that path, with a new contribution from TCHR to the annals of women’s health.

A study led by TCHR’s Dr. Greg Nichols shows that women with diabetes are 26% more likely than their non-diabetic counterparts to develop atrial fibrillation (AF). The world’s most common heart arrhythmia, AF is a potentially dangerous irregular heart rhythm that can lead to stroke, heart failure, and chronic fatigue.

Published today in the October issue of Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association, the study’s findings show that women with diabetes had the same risk of developing AF as men who did not have diabetes. Nichols and colleagues also found that men with diabetes are more likely to have AF; however, when adjusted for other factors, diabetes was not a statistically significant factor in the development of AF among men.

TCHR’s is the first large study—involving nearly 35,000 KPNW patients—to isolate the effect of diabetes and to determine that it is an independent risk factor for women. These findings may have significant implications for how we treat the 23 million Americans who have diabetes and specifically women with the disease.

Kaiser Permanente is America’s leading integrated health care organization. Founded in 1945, the organization serves the health needs of more than 8.7 million people nationwide. Nearly 480,000 people in Oregon and Southwest Washington receive their health care from Kaiser Permanente.  www.kaiserpermanente.org.

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