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The Influence of Gender on Arrhythmias

Peters, Robert W. MD*; Gold, Michael R. MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/
Original Article

It is becoming increasingly apparent that there are important gender differences in normal cardiac physiology. These, in turn, could be associated with differences in the type and severity of cardiac arrhythmias. Women have higher resting heart rates than men, probably as a result of a combination of autonomic and intrinsic factors. The clinical significance of this observation is unclear at the present time. Women have a lower incidence of sudden cardiac death, which could be related to the delayed onset of coronary artery disease in women, presumably as a result of the protective effects of female hormones during gestational years. In survivors of sudden cardiac death, there are major gender differences, with fewer women having underlying coronary artery disease and a greater percentage of women having structurally normal hearts. QT interval prolongation and Torsade de Pointes are more common in women, probably on the basis of differences in ion channels between genders. Women appear especially susceptible to Torsades from QT-prolonging drugs such as quinidine or tricyclic antidepressant medications. The mechanisms of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia differ between the genders, although therapy seems to be equally efficacious in men and women. Lastly, atrial fibrillation is considerably more common in men. There is also some evidence that it is better tolerated by men.

From the *Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, the University of Maryland, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland; and the †Division of Cardiology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina.

Reprints: Robert W. Peters, MD, Cardiology Section, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 10 North Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. E-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.