Women with an irregular heart beat are more likely to die prematurely than men with the condition, a study has found.
Researchers discovered female atrial fibrillation patients had a 12% higher chance of death from any cause and almost double the risk of death from heart disease.
And they had nearly double the risk of stroke and a 16% higher chance of heart failure than men.
University of Oxford’s findings, in the British Medical Journal prompted calls for patients’ treatment to be adapted according to their gender.
AF affects up to one in 10 over-65s, often causing an abnormally fast heart rate.
The study, of more than four million people, said it was unclear why it affected genders differently.
Thinkstock A female patient being given Prescription Medicine by a doctor
Oxford University’s Connor Emdin said the allocation of resources for its prevention and treatment “should also consider differential effects of AF by sex”.
AF occurs when the heart’s upper chambers contract randomly and sometimes so fast that the heart muscle is unable to relax properly between contractions.
This leads to an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate, and affects up to one in 10 people aged 65 and over.
A normal heart rate should be regular and between 60 and 100 beats a minute when a person is resting.
In some cases, people with AF have hearts that beat much faster than 100 beats a minute.
This can cause problems including dizziness, shortness of breath and tiredness, although some people have no symptoms.
Treatment can include medication to prevent a stroke or control the heart rate and rhythm, and cardioversion - where the heart is given a controlled electric shock to restore normal rhythm.