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Statins May Help Older Women Control Irregular Heartbeat
Date:5/15/2008

The cholesterol-lowering drugs showed some benefits in preliminary trial

THURSDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- Statins appear to be associated with a lower risk of the heart rhythm abnormality known as atrial fibrillation in postmenopausal women with coronary disease.

"Our finding alone doesn't prove that statins prevent atrial fibrillation, but it certainly supports the hypothesis that they may," said study author Dr. Cara Pellegrini, an electrophysiology fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. "Most likely, we will need a randomized, controlled study that includes both men and women to further prove this question."

But as a practitioner, Pellegrini added, "I would have a low threshold for putting a patient in whom I'm concerned about atrial fibrillation on a statin. If they perhaps were somewhat borderline for other reasons, this might tip the scale, even in the absence of a formal clinical trial."

The study findings are to be presented Thursday at the Heart Rhythm Society's annual meeting, in San Francisco.

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart quiver, rather than beat in a coordinated way. Blood can pool in the chambers, and clots can form that travel to the brain, causing a stroke. One 2006 study put the number of Americans with atrial fibrillation at more than 5 million.

Researchers have been looking at the possibility of using statins in people with atrial fibrillation since the early part of the decade. Most prior studies focused on men, although men and women tend to be affected differently by atrial fibrillation. Women have more frequent episodes and seem to be harder hit by some of the complications, including bleeding and stroke.

The new study looked at nearly 2,700 postmenopausal women with existing coronary disease, following them for an average of about four years. The odds of having atrial fibrillation at the start of the s
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