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Differences in Epidemiology and Risk Factors for Atrial Fibrillation Between Women and Men

Kavousi M1.

Front Cardiovasc Med. 2020 Jan 31;7:3. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2020.00003. eCollection 2020.


Atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia, is one of the most frequent cardiovascular diseases among both women and men. Although age-adjusted AF incidence and prevalence is larger among men, women are older at the time of AF diagnosis and have larger risk for AF-associated adverse outcomes such as morality and stroke. Based on evidence from epidemiological studies, elevated body mass index seems to confer a higher risk of AF among men. However, evidence regarding sex differences in the association between diabetes mellitus, elevated blood pressure, and dysglycemia with AF remains conflicting. While men with AF have larger burden of coronary artery disease, women with AF tend to have a larger prevalence of heart failure and valvular heart disease. Recently, several women-specific risk factors including pregnancy and its complications and number of children have been associated with AF. Earlier age at menopause, despite being a strong marker of adverse cardiometabolic risk, does not seem to be associated with increased risk of AF. To reduce the AF burden in both genders, better understanding of the differences between women and men with regard to AF is central. Large-scale studies are needed to separately investigate and report on women and men. Besides observations from epidemiological and clinical studies, to improve our understanding of sexual dimorphism in AF, sufficiently large genome-wide association studies as well as well-powered Mendelian randomization studies are essential to shed light on the sex-specific nature of the associations of risk factors with AF.