Women & Heart Disease Across the Lifespan (Part 3): Older Women


During this final installment of our 3 part series about women and heart disease we will be focusing on heart problems older women are more likely to experience. Some of the things we will discuss are heart failure, diastolic dysfunction, atrial fibrillation, aortic valve disease and sudden cardiac death.

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Is Diabetes a Risk Factor for Atrial Fibrillation (AF)?


For the first time diabetes has been shown to be an independent risk factor for AF according to a study published in the October 2009 issue of Diabetes Care. While there is an increased risk of AF in men with diabetes, there is a stronger association between diabetes and AF in women.  Diabetes is an even stronger risk factor than obesity and high blood pressure in women.  Normally, AF occurs more in men than women.  This study showed that women with diabetes had the same incidence of AF as men without diabetes.

While the actual reason behind this relationship is not understood, there is a theory.  Diabetes is known to cause damage to nerves, called neuropathies, and it is possible that the diabetes causes a type of neuropathy in the heart, which can lead to irregular heart rhythms.

 The bottom line is that it is important for diabetic patients to see their healthcare provider regularly and to be evaluated for any type of palpitations.

 Learn how to control your risk factors:

“Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” discusses how women can help control their cholesterol and other risk factors to prevent a heart attack, stroke and diabetes. “Take Charge: A Man’s Roadmap to a Healthier Heart” is due to be released Fall 2009. For more info visit www.heart-strong.com

Women with Atrial Fibrillation have Higher Stroke Risk



 Approximately 2.2 million people in the U.S. have atrial fibrillation.  Atrial fibrillation (abbreviated afib) is a heart rhythm disorder, which causes the atria (top 2 chambers of the heart) to quiver and not empty completely.  This can lead to blood clot formation in the top chambers of the heart.  If these blood clots become dislodged they can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

 Afib is more common in men but research studies have found that women have more complications than men and are not treated as aggressively.  In the September 2009 issue of Gender Medicine an article was published evaluating 20 years worth of data collected on gender differences and afib.  The summary found:

  • Women are more likely than men to have a stroke when they develop afib
  • Women are not prescribed blood thinning medications to prevent blood clots as often as men
  • When women do receive blood thinners they are more likely to have bleeding problems
  • When women are treated with antiarrhythmic medications (medications that try to control the irregular heart beat or slow a rapid heart beat) they are more likely to have adverse side effects than men
  • Women are less likely to be referred for catheter ablation (a heart procedure that is used to try and block the abnormal electrical heart impulses and stop afib)

 Future studies need to be conducted specifically on women to determine the best treatment methods for afib in order to prevent a stroke.  Women with afib also need to be closely monitored by their health care providers and treatment options should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

 “Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” discusses how women can help control their cholesterol and other risk factors to prevent a heart attack, stroke and diabetes. “Take Charge: A Man’s Roadmap to a Healthier Heart” is due to be released Fall 2009. For more info visit www.heart-strong.com

Catheter Ablation Study for Atrial Fibrillation Yields Mixed Results


afib ablation

Most people who develop atrial fibrillation are first treated with medications, but medicine only works for about 50% of patients. So then what are your options?

Catheter ablation is a relatively new procedure that may help people with atrial fibrillation.  Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure.  Small thin flexible catheters are passed through blood vessels to reach the heart and then deliver electrical energy that ablates (destroys) abnormal electrical tissue in the heart that is causing the abnormal heart rhythm. 

The Department of Health & Human Services and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently released a report evaluating the benefits of catheter ablation procedures for people with atrial fibrillation.  The report can be found at http://www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov

The report summary states that catheter ablation may “hold promise for treating atrial fibrillation” but more research is needed on this procedure, especially in women, the elderly and people with heart failure or high blood pressure.  The report found that catheter ablation has been shown to help maintain a normal heart rhythm over short periods of time (up to 1 year) but there is little evidence to show long term benefit.  Also there is no data to prove the effectiveness of catheter ablation as a first line therapy, before trialing medications to control the irregular heart rhythm.  The FDA also stated that there is no conclusive evidence of a lower stroke risk in people who undergo catheter ablation.  So patients at risk for a stroke should continue taking preventative blood-thinning medications.

Further studies are ongoing and this may be a treatment to consider in patients with atrial fibrillation but the indications and benefits should be discussed on an individual basis with your heart specialist.

For more heart healthy info please visit www.heart-strong.com

Atrial Fibrillation Research Study Seeks Afib Patients near San Francisco, Cincinnati, and New Jersey


 An afib research study is looking for volunteers that meet the following criteria: Between 21 and 65 years of age Have taken one of the following medications: Flecainide Rythmol (IR or SR) Propafenone Moricizine Encainide Lorcainide Live in or near: Edison, NJ — includes central/northern New Jersey and New York Cincinnati, OH and surrounding areas San Francisco, CA and the Bay area.

If you’re qualified and participate in a one-on-one interview or a small focus group with other afib patients, you will receive $100 to $125 for your time. You will be asked a few additional questions to ensure you meet the study criteria. If you meet the criteria above and would like to apply, please contact us using this Contact Form (http://stopafib.org/contact.cfm) so we can connect you with the study organizers. Please include your contact info (phone, e-mail, and mailing address). Thanks for your help.

By participating, you will help future afibbers.

(Posted on website stopafib.org)