In an Australian study that tracked 11,140 people with diabetes, researchers found a strong relationship between the presence of atrial fibrillation-abnormal heart rhythm-and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems and death.
The study was conducted by the Cardiovascular Division at The George Institute for International Health at the University of Sydney in Australia.
Patients who entered the study with already existing atrial fibrillation (AF) were 77 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke and 68 percent more likely to experience cardiovascular problems such as heart attack or stroke than others in the study who did not have the condition.
The study showed that women with AF were twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease as women without the condition. Men with AF were 50 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular problems than men without AF.
Despite the steeply increased odds for cardiovascular problems associated with AF, researchers found that aggressive intervention with blood pressure and cholesterol controlling drugs (perindopril and indapamide) reduced the odds somewhat. Actively treating AF patients over a five-year period with drugs prevented one death in 42, compared with one death in 120 among patients without AF.
The study’s findings, which were published March 12 in the European Heart Journal, conclude that diabetes patients should be tested for AF and that their doctors should provide aggressive monitoring and treatment to control cholesterol and blood pressure.