Among people with the common heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation, women are less likely than men to receive blood-thinning drugs, a new study reveals.
Blood thinners are important for people with atrial fibrillation because they help prevent stroke. Atrial fibrillation causes an irregular heartbeat.
In people with atrial fibrillation, blood doesn’t move from one part of the heart to the other as it should. Instead, the blood can pool and may clot. If a clot travels to the brain, it can cause a stroke. Blood-thinning drugs can help keep clots from forming, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
For the study, researchers reviewed data from nearly 1,600 people with atrial fibrillation. Among these patients, 55 percent of women were taking blood thinners, compared with 61 percent of men.
“The irony is that women have a higher risk of atrial fibrillation-related stroke, controlling for other risk factors such as hypertension [high blood pressure], diabetes, congestive heart failure, yet women are being undertreated,” said study investigator Dr. Mark Eckman. He is a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Cincinnati.
“There are some take-home messages. Doctors need to realize we have mental biases that women are healthier and at lower risk of stroke,” he said in a university news release.
“It’s the same story for coronary artery disease and risk of heart attacks. We think women are at lower risk and we ignore warning signs. Thus, when we are making decisions for blood-thinning therapy for patients with atrial fibrillation, we need to remember that women are at higher risk and we need to make sure we treat them aggressively enough to prevent stroke,” Eckman said.
The study was published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on atrial fibrillation.