Atrial fibrillation, Diagnosis, Heart Diseases, Heart Health

AFib: Gender Differences for Men and Women

How AFib differs in women and men

Among the most common diseases that go unidentified in individuals is arrhythmia. Arrhythmia refers to an irregularity in an individual’s heartbeat. It comes in many different types, but the one most prevalent in men and women is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib). 

Luckily, AFib is relatively simple to treat. However, you should note that there are some differences in how AFib appears in men and women. To find out more about these, keep reading!

What is AFib?

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and rapid heart rate that can result in several different complications. These include increasing the risk of strokes, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.

As AFib occurs, the heart’s two upper chambers beat both chaotically and irregularly, making them out of sync with the heart’s two lower chambers.

The upper chambers are knowns as the atria, and the lower chamber is known as the ventricles. 

These episodes of AFib will either come and go or, in exceptional cases; they develop into AFib that doesn’t go away and requires treatment. More often than not, AFib isn’t life-threatening. However, it’s still a severe medical condition that may sometimes require emergency treatment.

An exciting development in AFib is that specific gender differences arise in men and women. Even though gender-based differences are well-recognized, it’s a poorly understood subject. Hopefully, the other sections in the article explain these differences more clearly.

AFib Gender Differences in Causes

One of the most initial discoveries is that men are more prone to the development of atrial fibrillation. However, because women have longer lives than men, AFib’ss cumulative lifetime risk is similar in both men and women. On average, women will develop AFib ten years later than men.

Additionally, another exciting development is that AFib’soverall prevalence varies according to the individual’s ancestry. Prevalence studies reveal that Asian populations produce less consistent results in comparison to North American or European communities. While most studies report a higher incidence of AFib in men, the study showcases that the male gender was no longer significantly associated with AFib after adjusting for certain factors.

Other studies worldwide showcase that several major risk factors in both men and women, include higher age, BMI, blood pressure, hypertension treatment, diabetes mellitus, valvular heart disease, HF, and myocardial infarction.

Out of these factors, the most important is advancing age. If you look at the elements, an increase in ten years of age will lead to a doubling in AFib incidence. Studies from North America, Europe, and Australia reveal that women with AFib are, on average, older than men.

Another exciting feature is that the prevalence of major risk factors has changed in both men and women over the last few decades. Notably, one of the dominant risk factors that seen the most change is the body mass index. In a study regarding women’s health, the attributable risk of atrial fibrillation in women with an increasing BMI was 18.3%.

Another risk factor that indicates sex differences in causes is the impact of physical activity. Men that lead sedentary lifestyles and engage in vigorous exercise have an increased risk of developing AFib. However, women that participate in strenuous exercise don’t experience an increase in AFib.

Gender Differences in AFib Symptoms

As there are differences in the causes of atrial fibrillation, there are significant differences in the symptoms. Individuals that suffer from AFib have fast and fluttering heartbeats known as palpitations. It can also be described as feeling like you have butterflies in the chest. 

Women are increasingly likely to experience such symptoms, and doctors attribute this to women having a faster heartbeat in general. Additionally, women typically have a smaller body frame than men, making it easier to feel the heart beating. Other symptoms that women experience more than men are fatigue, trouble sleeping, and additional weakness. One of the reasons women experience these symptoms more is that they’re increasingly aware of their heartbeat.

Along with these symptoms, there are also different co-existing conditions. These include coronary artery disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Both these diseases have a significantly higher prevalence in men. The prevalence of these diseases is also attributable to higher obesity.

On the other hand, women that seek treatment for AFib are more likely to suffer from thyroid problems. However, these do not seem to cause an irregular heartbeat. Other conditions that more likely to occur in women include; depression, hypertension, kidney problems, and obesity.

AFib Gender Differences in Complications

One of the most significant complications that arise during atrial fibrillation is increasing your risk of suffering a stroke. As the upper chambers of the heart are beating abnormally, it causes difficulty in pushing blood out. There’s a likely chance that blood will pool inside the heart and form a clot that can break off. Once it breaks off, it enters circulation and blocks blood flow.

Women that suffer from AFib are more likely to suffer a stroke or early death.

They’re also at a higher rate of suffering a heart attack and congestive heart failure. Generally, men who suffer AFib have a higher chance of a positive outcome than women.

Gender Differences in Treatments

One of the best forms of treatment is the use of anticoagulants, such as warfarin or aspirin. These are given to help thin the blood and significantly reduce blood clots forming in the heart. Research showcases that men are prescribed clot-preventing medicine more often than women. Women that take anticoagulants are at a higher risk of suffering from dangerous bleeding episodes.

Men are more likely to be referred for non-drug therapies, including pacemakers and catheter ablation.

Ablations therapy is the process of running a wire from a leg vein to the heart, causing a change in the heart that is responsible for the abnormal beats.

On the other hand, women are more likely to get medicine that is known as diuretics and antidepressants. Compared to men, they are much more likely to develop depression as a symptom of atrial fibrillation.  

Something that is good for AFib management for both genders is regular heart health monitoring. Thanks to nowadays technology now you can do it on your own at home with your phone, apps, and electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) devices. These solutions capture abnormal information from your heart and evaluate your normal heart rate and heart rhythm trends. You can understand more about your heart health and draw conclusions about things that impact your condition. Including, medications, bad habits, physical activities, etc. Moreover, you can share this information with your doctor from anywhere, anytime. So that your doctor can provide you recommendations.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether you’re a man or woman, it’s crucial to remember that anyone can develop heart disease. You must talk to your doctor about any symptoms that you may have, even if it’s something as simple as being out of breath or seeming fatigued. It would be best if you immediately asked your doctor to tell you about tests or treatments available for your conditions.

Atrial fibrillation is a much-discussed disease, and talking about AFib gender differences more can help us develop a better understanding of the principles of the disease. Furthermore, it can help us find more effective methods for treatment.

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