Irregular heartbeat strikes men earlier than women

Nov. 8, 2017—Men experience an irregular heartbeat earlier than women do, according to a new study. The biggest risk factors appear to be age and weight. Having an irregular heartbeat is known as atrial fibrillation (AF or Afib).

Heart of the matter

The study looked at nearly 80,000 people ages 24 to 97. These people did not have an irregular heartbeat at the beginning of the study. The study showed that the onset of an irregular heartbeat increased sharply after age 50 for men. The onset increased at age 60 for women. By age 90, the risk of AF was the same for both men and women.

When AF happens, the upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beat. Because of this, blood isn’t pumped the way it should be. In the study, AF tripled the risk of death over the course of the study.

Increases in body fat raised a person's risk of atrial fibrillation. A higher body mass index (BMI) increased AF cases by 31 percent for men and 18 percent for women.

Another risk factor was a higher blood level of C-reactive protein. This is a sign of inflammation. Other risk factors for AF include high cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, drinking alcohol, previous heart attacks or strokes, and having heart disease.

The study was limited to white men and women in Europe, so the findings might not apply beyond the Caucasian population. But researchers believe the BMI link could impact other groups.

The study was published in the journal Circulation.

Reduce your risks

According to the American Heart Association, between 2.7 and 6 million Americans are living with AF. More than 12 million are expected to have it by 2030.

Left untreated, AF doubles the risk of a heart-related death. Having the condition also increases your risk of stroke fivefold.

Knowing the risk factors can help prevent AF. One way to reduce your risk is to lose weight, the researchers said.

To learn more about irregular heartbeat, you can read this article: What is an arrhythmia?