Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Men are likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat, significantly earlier than women, with researchers reporting that weight is a major factor along with age.
The new study, published today in the journal Circulation, suggests that men are at increased risk to develop atrial fibrillation 10 years earlier than women.
Atrial fibrillation is a type of irregular heartbeat in the upper chambers of the heart, or atria, and if left untreated, it can increase a person's risk of heart-related death. Atrial fibrillation is associated with a five times increased risk of stroke.
The American Heart Association reports between 2.7 and 6 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, and more than 12 million are expected to have the condition by 2030. Risk factors for the condition include body mass index, systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption, previous heart attack or stroke and presence of heart disease.
"It's crucial to better understand modifiable risk factors of atrial fibrillation," Dr. Christina Magnussen, a medical specialist in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at the University Heart Center in Hamburg, Germany, said in a press release. "If prevention strategies succeed in targeting these risk factors, we expect a noticeable decline in new-onset atrial fibrillation."
For the study, researchers analyzed records of 79,793 people age 24 to 97 who participated in four European studies that were part of the Biomarker for Cardiovascular Risk Assessment in Europe consortium.
The study participants did not have atrial fibrillation at the beginning of the study. The median time for follow-up with participants ranged from 12.6 to 28.2 years, revealing that 4.4 percent of womenand 6.4 percent of men had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
The researchers found diagnosis rates increased for men age 50 or older and for women 60 and older. The onset of atrial fibrillation was linked to higher blood levels of C-reactive protein in men.
The condition developed in roughly 24 percent of men and women by age 90, and new atrial fibrillation cases increased more in men with increases in body mass index than in women.
"We advise weight reduction for both men and women," Magnussen said. "As elevated body mass index seems to be more detrimental for men, weight control seems to be essential, particularly in overweight and obese men."