New research, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, finds about 1 in 4 women -- between the ages of 50 and 79 -- develop irregular heart rhythms due to stress and insomnia which can increase their risk for stroke or heart failure. Photo by anaterate/Pixabay
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Aug. 31 (UPI) -- A new study finds a quarter of all post-menopausal women may develop irregular or rapid heartbeats, known as atrial fibrillation, with stress and insomnia being the leading contributing factors.
The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found approximately 1 in 4 women -- between the ages of 50 and 79 -- develops irregular heart rhythms due to stress and insomnia, which may increase their risk for stroke or heart failure.
To determine whether stress and insomnia were contributing factors, researchers studied more than 83,000 questionnaires from a major U.S. study, called the Women's Health Initiative. Out of those women, 23,954 developed atrial fibrillation.
Researchers attributed a 4% higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation to those with insomnia and a 2% higher risk to a stressful life event, such as the loss of a loved one, illness, divorce, domestic abuse or financial pressure.
"The heart and brain connection has been long established in many conditions," lead study author and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center cardiologist Susan Zhao said in a statement. "Atrial fibrillation is a disease of the electrical conduction system and is prone to hormonal changes stemming from stress and poor sleep."
Atrial fibrillation, or irregular heart rhythms, primarily affects older adults and can lead to blood clots, stroke or heart failure. More than 12 million people in the United States are expected to develop atrial fibrillation by 2030, according to the American Heart Association.
"In my general cardiology practice, I see many postmenopausal women with picture perfect physical health who struggle with poor sleep and negative psychological emotional feelings or experience, which we now know may put them at risk for developing atrial fibrillation," Zhao said.
"I strongly believe that in addition to age, genetic and other heart health-related risk factors, psychosocial factors are the missing piece to the puzzle of the genesis of atrial fibrillation."