Atrial Fibrillation contributes to stroke

BE AWARE: A common type of arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation can cause stroke.
BE AWARE: A common type of arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation can cause stroke.

New survey reveals Aussies aren’t connecting the dots between atrial fibrillation and stroke, and that lack of awareness may contribute to stroke morbidity and mortality.

The International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH), on World Thrombosis Day, has released a new survey highlighting that only 50 per cent of the Australian public (over age 40) are aware of atrial fibrillation (AFib), and less than half (47 per cent) understand the connection between AFib and stroke.

While recognition for stroke in Australia is high, with 88 per cent of people acknowledging the condition, only one quarter (26 per cent) are personally concerned about AFib – suggesting a lack of understanding and awareness that stroke can be a consequence of AFib.

AFib is a common type of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, which causes the heart’s upper chamber to beat out of rhythm.

The condition can cause pooling of the blood, and clot formation, which can break free and lodge in an artery, where it travels to the brain - ultimately causing thromboembolic stroke.

Awareness of AFib compared with other medical conditions such as diabetes (90 per cent) high blood pressure (92 per cent) and breast cancer (89 per cent) is also relatively low.

Over 33 million people worldwide – or .5 per cent of the world’s population have AFib, which is estimated to account for 15 per cent of the 15 million strokes that occur worldwide every year.

In Australia, AFib affects approximately 400,000 people, with AFib five times more likely to have a stroke compared to those who do not have the condition.

Dr. Claire McLintock, Clinical and Laboratory Haematologist in Obstetric Medicine and World Thrombosis Day Steering Committee Member, wants more people to be aware of AFib, which can progress into stroke and other health issues.

“There is a need for more awareness of AFib – what it is and the increased risk factor of stroke for many patients. While some people may not experience symptoms, it is important to understand how AFib can present, as early detection is vital.

“Symptoms can include irregular heartbeat, lightheadedness, fatigue, shortness of breath and heart palpitations,” Dr. McLintock said.

Dr. Gary Raskob, Dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (USA) and Chairman of the World Thrombosis Day Steering Committee, hopes to leverage World Thrombosis Day to raise more awareness of AFib and its importance as a cause of stroke at a global level.

“Despite the prevalence of AFib around the world, this survey confirms that a majority of people lack critical awareness and knowledge about this condition as an important cause of stroke.

Many strokes can be prevented by detection and treatment of AFib.