WebMD Medical News
Laura J. Martin, MD
Sept. 28, 2009 -- Women with diabetes may be 26% more likely than other
women to develop a heart rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation.
Researchers report that news in the October edition of Diabetes
Data came from more than 34,000 adults who got their health care through
Kaiser Permanente Northwest. The group included 17,000 diabetes patients.
When the study started, atrial fibrillation was more common in diabetes
patients than in people without diabetes, affecting 3.6% of the diabetes
patients, compared to 2.5% of those without diabetes.
The researchers then tracked everyone else -- all participants who didn't
already have atrial fibrillation -- for seven years.
During that time, people with diabetes were more likely than people without
diabetes to develop atrial fibrillation. That risk was higher for women than
Regardless of factors including age, height, weight, blood pressure,
previous history of heart disease, cholesterol levels, and hemoglobin A1c
(which is used to estimate blood sugar control in recent months), women with
diabetes were 26% more likely than other women to develop atrial
But diabetes didn't stand out as an independent risk factor for atrial
fibrillation in men. That is, atrial fibrillation was more common in men with
diabetes than in men without diabetes, but that gap vanished when the
researchers controlled for other risk factors.
The reasons for the gender gap in the results aren't clear from this
"Diabetes has long been recognized as a risk factor for atrial
fibrillation," write the researchers, who included Gregory Nichols, PhD, of the
Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.
Nichols and colleagues say the gender gap in their findings was unexpected
and needs further study.
SOURCE:Nichols, G. Diabetes Care, Oct. 2009; vol 32: pp 1851-1856.
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