Atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm, tends to be more prevalent in men compared to women, which has led many to view men as having increased risks. However, researchers found women had a greater risk compared to men if they were the same height and size. The NIH-supported study published in JAMA Cardiology.
Multiple factors, including being older than age 65, genetics, lifestyle, and having heart surgery, can increase the risk for atrial fibrillation. To assess sex-specific differences with atrial fibrillation risk, researchers with the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL) Rhythm study assessed data from more than 25,000 middle-aged adults who did not have cardiovascular disease or atrial fibrillation at the start of the study. Throughout a five-year period, 900 incidents of atrial fibrillation were noted, which affected 4% of men (495/12,362) and 3.2% of women (405/12,757).
After accounting for factors, like age, underlying conditions, and body mass index (BMI), the researchers found men appeared to have an increased risk for atrial fibrillation compared to women. Yet, after using other measures of body size, like height, in place of BMI, they found women appeared to have increased risks. Since atrial fibrillation is associated with increased risks for stroke, heart failure, and premature death, the researchers shared the importance of increased awareness and prevention.