Sex Differences in Cardiac Arrhythmias
Clinical and Research Implications
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Sex differences have the potential to impact diagnostic and therapeutic interventions in a wide variety of medical conditions, and cardiac arrhythmias are no exception.1 Studies evaluating pathophysiology, disease course, and therapeutic options for cardiac arrhythmias have been performed predominantly in male patients. However, catheter and device-based therapies coupled with landmark clinical trials have contributed to an improved understanding of this important aspect. The objective of this review is to present the current state of knowledge on sex differences in cardiac arrhythmias with a focus on clinical management, while highlighting gaps in knowledge that would benefit from future investigation.
Atrial Fibrillation and Atrial Flutter
Atrial fibrillation (AF) and atrial flutter (AFL) are the most commonly encountered tachyarrhythmias in clinical practice, with significant implications for public health and healthcare costs. Stroke, hospitalization, and loss of productivity are the major consequences of AF.2 The incidence of AF (per 1000 person-years) is reported to be between 1.6 and 2.7 in women and between 3.8 and 4.7 in men.2 The age-adjusted incidence and prevalence of AF is lower in women compared with that in men, and accordingly, the lifetime risk of AF from the Framingham Heart Study at 40 years of age was higher in men (26.0% for men versus 23.0% for women).3 Another analysis from the Framingham Heart Study demonstrated no significant sex differences in the risk of developing AFL.4 The prevalence of AF continues to rise among both men and women. In a study investigating the global burden of disease from 1980 to 2010, there was not only an increase in overall burden, incidence, and prevalence of AF, but most importantly an increase in AF-associated mortality in both men and women (Figure 1).5 The age-adjusted mortality for women was consistently higher compared with that for men from 1990 to 2010 (Figure …