Diabetes a Risk Factor for Irregular Heartbeat in Women

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By Cile Waller

Women with diabetes are at an increased risk for atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, new research confirms.

Diabetes increases a women's likelihood for atrial fibrillation (AF) by 26 percent, according to a new Kaiser Permanente study. Previous studies have drawn connections between AF and diabetes, but this is the first large study isolating the effects of diabetes in women as a risk factor for AF. The study followed almost 35,000 patients over seven years.

About 2.2 million Americans are diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, when the two upper chambers of their heart beat irregularly or too quickly. AF can cause blood to pool or clot and can potentially lead to stoke, heart failure and chronic fatigue. Of the 23 million Americans with diabetes, 4 percent, or 1 million, have atrial fibrillation.

In the study, men were also found to have an increased risk of AF, but not as significant as in women. Diabetes in men is more likely to lead to obesity and high blood pressure than irregular heartbeat.

Diabetes is one of the most common and costly health conditions, and this study can improve the way it is treated in both men and women, according to researchers.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association, 2009

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