Diabetes is an important risk factor for a common heart rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation, particularly in women, US investigators report.
Atrial fibrillation, or AF, is marked by a rapid, irregular heart rhythm originating in the small upper chambers of the heart. AF can lead to stroke, serious bleeding, cardiac arrest and death.
While the link between diabetes and AF is well known, the current study, which involved nearly 35,000 patients followed for roughly seven years, is the first to isolate the effect of diabetes and confirm its independent impact, according to the researchers.
Steep AF increase among diabetics
Dr Gregory Nichols, at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, and colleagues identified 17,372 patients in the company's diabetes registries in Oregon and Washington and an equal number of matched "controls".
At the outset, the prevalence of AF was much higher among individuals with diabetes than among those without diabetes (3.6% vs 2.5%).
While the prevalence of AF increased with age in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients, the increase was steeper among diabetic patients, and particularly among women, the researchers found.
Over an average of about 7 years, the risk of AF was 38% higher in those with diabetes than in those without, they report in the journal Diabetes Care.
After taking into account factors that might influence the link, men with diabetes had a 30% higher risk of AF than men without diabetes and women with diabetes had a 52% higher risk of AF than women without diabetes.
After full adjustment for other risk factors, the risk for AF was 26% higher in women with diabetes. Diabetes also remained associated with AF in men (9% higher risk), but the increased risk in men did not reach statistical significance.
(Reuters Health, September 2009)