Diabetes increases the risk of women developing atrial fibrillation (AF) by 26 percent. Atrial fibrillation is a potentially dangerous irregular heart rhythm that can lead to stroke, heart failure, and chronic fatigue. These are the findings of a new Kaiser Permanente study, published in the October issue of Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.
While other studies have found that patients with diabetes are more likely to develop AF, this is the first large study — involving nearly 35,000 Kaiser Permanente patients over the course of seven years — to isolate the effect of diabetes and determine that it is an independent risk factor for women.
“AF is the most common arrhythmia in the world, and diabetes is one of the most common and costly health conditions. Our study points out that there is a connection between these two growing epidemics — one we should pay closer attention to, especially among women,” said Sumeet Chugh, M.D., co-author and associate director of the Heart Institute, Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles. “The gender differences need to be looked at more closely because they could have significant implications for how we treat diabetes in men and women.”
Atrial fibrillation occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart beat irregularly and too fast, causing blood to pool and clot. If the clot travels out of the heart and becomes lodged in an artery or in the brain, it can cause a stroke.
About 2.2 million Americans are diagnosed with AF. However, many more have the condition but don’t know it.
Diabetes affects more than 23 million Americans — and, according to the study, nearly 4 percent, or 1 million, have AF.
Diabetes affects about 10 percent of the Asian American population. In 2006, heart disease was the second leading cause of death in the Asian American and Pacific Islander population. Diabetes was the fifth leading cause of death.
Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research, founded in 1964, is a nonprofit research institution dedicated to advancing knowledge to improve health care. It has research sites in Portland, Honolulu, and Atlanta. ♦
For more information, visit www.kaiserpermanente.org.