School of Population Health

Atrial Fibrillation in older women: exploring how diet and nutrition can improve outcomes

Image Atrial Fibrillation

The chronic cardiovascular disease atrial fibrillation (AF) – or irregular heartbeat, which can lead to stoke and heart failure – causes more deaths among women than men in Australia. While most research has, understandably, been aimed at preventing AF, relatively little work has focused on improving our understanding of how diet and nutrition can lead to better management of the disease and better outcomes for people with AF.

In Australia, as in many developed nations, the population is ageing. At the same time, there is growing appreciation of the impact of geriatric conditions such as frailty on cardiovascular diseases such as AF, and of social factors such as dieting for weight loss, which mainly affect women.

The latest clinical guidelines for diagnosing and managing AF highlight the need to better understand the specific challenges of older and frail patients. It is, therefore, important to investigate dietary behaviour and nutrition in female AF patients as they get older, and how these factors relate to the prevalence of multiple health problems, frailty and death.

This research project draws on the wealth of data contained in the 45 and Up Study – the largest long-term study of healthy ageing in the southern hemisphere, with more than a quarter of a million participants in NSW – and in the comprehensive NSW database of hospitalisations and deaths. The results will improve outcomes for older women with AF, by informing policy-making, health service planning and clinical practice, and will provide scientific evidence that can assist with the revision of national and international guidelines. They will also help us to design nutrition-focused interventions that can lead to better management of the disease in older women.