Women with irregular heartbeats have a greater risk of suffering a stroke compared with men with the condition, new research has found.
The study, published in the BMJ-British Medical Journal, suggests doctors and clinicians take a patient’s gender into account when deciding whom to treat with anti-clotting drugs.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and University of Birmingham tracked more than 100,000 Swedish patients with an irregular heart rhythm – known as atrial fibrillation – for an average of 1.2 years. Over the course of the study, 7,221 patients had “thromboembolic” strokes (due to blood clots), while “ischemic” strokes (due to lack of blood supply to the brain) were more common. Women had higher stroke rates than men -- 4,264 versus 2,957 – for an overall annual stroke rate of 6.2 percent for women and 4.2 percent for men.
Even after adjusting for 35 factors that could have influenced the results, women still had an 18 percent higher risk of stroke than men.
"In borderline situations, in which a decision about whether to give anticoagulation treatment weighs in the balance, we suggest that female sex should probably tip the scale towards initiating [anti-clotting] treatment," the researchers concluded.