Women are less likely to receive blood thinners to treat irregular heartbeat, compared to men. Blood thinners are commonly used to treat irregular heartbeat – atrial fibrillation – as they aid in the reduction of the stroke risk.
In atrial fibrillation, blood does not move from one part of the heart to the other as it is supposed to, so blood can start pooling, thus causing a blood clot – which can ultimately contribute to a stroke. Blood thinners prevent blood clots, and that is how the stroke risk is reduced.
The researchers reviewed data from over 1,600 people with atrial fibrillation. They found that only 55 percent of women were put on blood thinners, compared to 61 percent of men.
Study investigator Dr. Mark Eckman said, “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. There are some take-home messages. Doctors need to realize we have mental biases that women are healthier and at lower risk of stroke.”
Eckman concluded, “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.”
Also, read Bel Marra Health’s article on Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) patients not receiving stroke prevention treatments.