Mercy’s Dr. Kathryn Boling Discusses Atrial Fibrillation in Women

August 16, 2016
Lutherville Personal Physicians

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as many as 6 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, a condition that increases the risk of stroke and other serious heart problems. Medical experts say that women are more at risk for the disease that men.

This group include Chris Debrabander. Three years ago she woke up with what she called a pulsating feeling in her chest or a rapid heartbeat that turned out to be atrial fibrillation.

“Oh, the first time it happened, of course, when they said it was the heart, yes, I was scared and nervous,” Debrabander said.

According to Dr. Kathryn Boling, Lutherville Personal Physicians, atrial fibrillation is when the two upper chambers of the heart, called atria, beat rapidly and irregularly.

The disease can be more deadly for women than men, possibly because of women's hormones and aging or because women may have been undertreated for it.

“We didn't realize that women had higher risks of death and stroke from atrial fibrillation because all the studies involved men,” Dr. Boling said. “Then we just clumped women in with men and said ‘let's treat them all the same,’ not realizing that women are very different from men biologically.”

Many women manage their atrial fibrillation with medication in order to slow down their heart rate and thin their blood.

And although she's had other episodes, Debrabander is managing her atrial fibrillation and said she now has a more relaxed attitude about it.

“It is serious, but it doesn't mean death,” she said. “So you look at it as a serious problem and go on with your life.” 

View Dr. Kathryn Boling, Lutherville Personal Physicians, interview regarding atrial fibrillation.

Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.

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