New research has found that women are at a shockingly higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation than men — reversing the conventional beliefs that men were more susceptible.
Researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute in Cedars-Sinai report in the journal JAMA Cardiology that when height is taken into account, women have a 50% higher risk of developing the abnormal heart rhythm disorder than men, according to Science Daily.
“This is the first study to show an actual reversal in the risk of atrial fibrillation,” said Dr. Christine Albert, a senior study author who chairs the Division of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute.
AFib is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm and can lead to stroke or heart failure if not treated properly. When a woman suffers from AFib, she is more likely to experience one of those two serious outcomes than men, according to the outlet.
Albert’s findings are based on a nationwide study of cardiac arrhythmias called VITAL that examined a quarter of a million people.
According to the doctor, “In this population of 25,000 individuals with no previous heart disease, after adjusting for height differences, women had a higher risk of developing AF than their male counterparts — over 50%.”
Albert has also found that the taller a person is, the more at risk they are.
“However, our study surprisingly suggests that if a man and a woman are the same height, the woman is more likely to develop AFib,” Albert said. “Now the question has changed: instead of why women are protected, we should now try to understand why women are at higher risk.”
Patients are often treated with blood thinners for AFib, but may also opt for heart surgery. However, women “are less likely to undergo invasive treatments for AFib, such as ablation,” Science Daily reported.
Ablation is a procedure that “uses heat or cold energy to create small scars” that help “restore a typical heartbeat,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
More than 12.1 million Americans will develop the condition by 2030, according to the publication. Albert emphasizes that this is due to a general increase in population.
“As the incidence increases, it is more imperative than ever to offer preventive strategies and early diagnostic interventions to all patients,” Albert said.
She recommends the best preventative measures for AFib, including maintaining a healthy weight, getting routine exercise, monitoring blood pressure, and limiting drinking.
“These lifestyle changes are important for those at risk for atrial fibrillation, but also important adjustments that all women can consider to help prevent other heart-related conditions,” says Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at the Smidt Heart. Institute.