Patients With Diabetes Less Likely to Identify Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation


Individuals with diabetes and atrial fibrillation were less likely to notice symptoms of irregular heartbeat.

Individuals with diabetes (either type 1 or type 2) and atrial fibrillation (AFib) were less likely to notice symptoms of irregular heartbeat, more likely to have a lower quality of life, and experienced a greater number of coexisting health conditions than patients with atrial fibrillation without diabetes, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Since diabetes is one of the major risk factors for AFib, our team investigated whether patients with and without diabetes differ in terms of atrial fibrillation symptoms and complications,” said Tobias Reichlin, MD, professor of cardiology at Bern University Hospital, in a press release. “This research can provide insights on improving the management of atrial fibrillation and prevention of its complications.”

The investigators analyzed 2411 patients with atrial fibrillation enrolled in the Swiss-AF study between 2014 and 2017. Approximately 17% of participants were diagnosed with diabetes, according to their medical records, but these patients were not classified by type 1 or type 2. Participants received a clinical examination, blood sampling, cognitive assessment, quality of life assessment, and 5-minute resting ECG.

According to the investigators, compared to patients with AFib who did not have diabetes, participants with diabetes were approximately 25% less likely than those without diabetes to recognize common symptoms of atrial fibrillation, such as a rapid heartbeat. Further, these patients were 3 times as likely to have high blood pressure, 55% more likely to have had heart attacks, and about twice as likely to have heart failure. The study results also showed that these individuals had a 39% increased risk of stroke and were 75% more likely to have cognitive impairment.

“These important new findings from the large Swiss AF study show compared to AFib patients without diabetes, those with diabetes were less likely to experience any symptom related to atrial fibrillation,” said Prakash Deedwania, MD, a member of the scientific advisory board for Know Diabetes By Heart, in the release. “These results were seen even though people with diabetes and AFib had more coexisting health conditions such as high blood pressure, as well as a history of heart attack and heart failure. Keeping these new observations in mind, along with the serious consequences of failing to recognize AFib in time, it seems prudent to consider screening older patients with diabetes for AFib so that treatment may be initiated when appropriate."


People with AFib and diabetes were less likely to notice irregular heartbeat [news release]. EurekAlert; November 10, 2021. Accessed November 16, 2021.

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