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Women With Atrial Fibrillation Face Rougher Road Than Men
Date:9/24/2009

  • Women are not prescribed blood thinners as often as men, resulting in a higher incidence of the formation of clots that break loose and block other vessels. The risk/benefit ratio should be assessed individually for each woman.
  • Women have a greater risk of bleeding from anticoagulation therapy, so this treatment must be monitored carefully.
  • Closely monitor women being treated with antiarrhythmic drugs because they have a higher risk for life-threatening arrhythmias and slow heart rates requiring permanent pacing.
  • Women's hormonal fluctuations can cause more life-threatening arrhythmias.
  • Monitor women's potassium levels in the blood because they have a higher risk of low levels, which boost the risk for drug-related arrhythmias.
  • Because women have a higher sensitivity to such therapies as statins and vasodilators, liver and kidney function should be closely watched.
  • Women are referred less often or later for non-drug treatments such as pacemaker implantation or ablation. Ablative therapy should remain an option for symptomatic women because they have success rates similar to those of men.
  • The study also found that, in general, women with atrial fibrillation have a lower quality of life than men with the disease. But the researchers said that careful assessment and relief of symptoms, and adequate control of heart rate or rhythm can make things better.

    "For women with atrial fibrillation, these gender differences should always be kept in mind to help prevent strokes and heart failure and improve their quality of life," Volgman said.

    The study is published in the September issue of Gender Medicine.

    More information

    The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about atrial fibrillation.

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