Older women with irregular heart rhythms may be at a slightly higher risk for suffering a stroke, compared with men, according to a new study from Sweden.
Researchers surveyed more than 100,000 patients with an irregular heart rhythm (called atrial fibrillation), and found that women with the disease had an 18 percent greater chance of suffering from an ischemic stroke, which is caused by an interruption of blood flowing to the brain. The gender difference was only seen in patients over age 65 suffering from atrial fibrillation.
The finding has implications the debate over whether a patient's sex should be considered when doctors prescribe anti-clotting treatments, the researchers said. Past research into the issue has been inconclusive.
"In borderline situations, in which a decision about whether to give anticoagulation treatment weighs in the balance, we suggest that female sex should probably tip the scale towards initiating treatment," the study authors wrote.
Study participants were tracked on average for 1.2 years, during which 7,221 patients had strokes. Of those, 4,264 were womenand 2,957 were men. The researchers took into account 35 factors that may have affected the patients' stroke risk.
They found that older women with the irregular heart rhythm condition had a 6.2 percent chance of ischaemic stroke, while older men with the condition had a 4.2 chance of such stroke.
For people ages 65 to 74 who don't have the heart condition, risk of stroke is under 2 percent.
The study was published Thursday (May 31) in the British Medical Journal.
Pass it on: Older female patients with irregular heart rhythms have a higher chance of suffering a stroke than their male counterparts.