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Atrial Fibrillation Warning for Diabetics: April 29, 2011

We do see atrial fibrillation more commonly in diabetics, I think this is in part related to their higher risk of vascular disease," warns Lee Memorial Health System cardiologist, Dr. Brian Taschner.

A recent study finds that diabetes have a 40% higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation than those who are not diabetic. Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm that can lead to heart palpitations, congestive heart failure, even strokes. "Diabetics can also develop certain types of neuropathies, problems with the nerves. One of the nerves that helps control the heart rate and heart rhythm is called the vagus nerve. If the diabetes affects that, that can affect the heart regulations," adds Dr. Taschner.

There’s an even greater concern for those who may be walking around with diabetes and don’t even know they have it. "There are patients that are at a much higher risk of developing coronary disease and vascular disease and I think that’s part of the association."

While there is not enough data to recommend atrial fibrillation screenings for all diabetics, Dr. Taschner says diabetics and borderline diabetics can take action. "I think that we can prevent atrial fibrillation to a degree by trying to control things like hypertension, and coronary artery disease, which we know are risk factors."

For those who are diabetic, it’s important to keep things under control. Researchers have discovered people with uncontrollable diabetes doubled their risk of atrial fibrillation.