Diabetics with Atrial Fibrillation at Risk for Other Cardiovascular Problems

March 24, 2009

Diabetics suffering from atrial fibrillation are at an increased risk for other heart-related problems and death, according to a new study of 11,100 type II diabetes patients.

Diabetics suffering from atrial fibrillation (AF) are at an increased risk for other heart-related problems and death, according to a new study of 11,100 type II diabetes patients published in the European Heart Journal.

Patients with AF at the start of the trial “had a 61% increased risk of dying from any cause, a 77% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular causes such as a heart attack or stroke, and a 68% increased risk of developing heart failure or other cerebrovascular problems such as stroke, when compared with diabetic patients who did not have AF.”

In addition, the researchers found that “there was a significantly stronger association between AF and deaths from cardiovascular disease in women compared with men. Women with AF were twice as likely to die than women without AF, whereas men with AF were 50% more likely to die than men without AF.”

Lead researcher professor Anushka Patel, Director of the Cardiovascular Division at The George Institute for International Health, University of Sydney, Australia, suggested that because women in general have a lower risk of dying from heart-related problems than men, the greater risk for diabetic women with AF means that their rate is actually equal to that of men.

Another finding of the study related to how patients with AF were treated for that particular condition. When the diabetic AF participants were given a combination drug for lowering blood pressure, the chances of developing any of these conditions or of dying were reduced. However, the chances of these outcomes were reduced in patients without AF who were given the same blood pressure drugs.

“This study informs clinicians that AF is a marker of greater risk of cardiovascular events and mortality among diabetics, both men and women,” read a statement from the European Society of Cardiology. “Such patients should have their cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, controlled more aggressively. This is a separate issue to rate and rhythm control (or the use of anticoagulants to prevent thromboembolic events), which is the usual therapeutic focus in patients with AF. These issues are important, but we believe our data suggest that heightened awareness and management of overall cardiovascular risk is also important.”

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