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Irregular Heartbeat Risk Higher in Women With Type 2 Diabetes
Date:9/28/2009

Reason behind gender difference isn't clear, researchers say ,,,,

MONDAY, Sept. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Women with type 2 diabetes have a 26 percent increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation, a potentially life-threatening irregular heartbeat, new findings suggest.

The overall incidence of atrial fibrillation was 3.6 percent among people with type 2 diabetes, while the rate for people without the metabolic condition was only 2.5 percent, according to the study, which will be published in the October issue of Diabetes Care.

"We found that people with diabetes have about a 44 percent higher prevalence of atrial fibrillation," said study author Gregory Nichols, an investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. "When we stratified the data by sex, the association was still elevated for men -- but not statistically significant -- but for women, it was still statistically significant."

The researchers were not able to tease out from the data in this study why women with diabetes might have a higher rate of atrial fibrillation. The authors theorize that diabetes may affect the cardiac autonomic nerves in much the same way the disease damages peripheral nerves and causes a condition known as peripheral neuropathy.

Not everyone is convinced that cardiac neuropathy is to blame, however. "In people with diabetes, the cluster of other cardiac risk factors, like obesity and hypertension, increases the risk of atrial fibrillation," said Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director of the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Diabetes is a known risk factor for heart disease. As many as 65 percent of people with diabetes will die from heart disease and stroke, according to the American Diabetes Association. Death rates from heart disease are up to four times higher for people with diabetes when compared t
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