The Bare Facts about Atrial Fibrillation
What is Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial Fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disturbance, causing the heart to beat either too quickly or too slowly. In atrial fibrillation, the atria or the upper chambers of the heart beat too quickly or out of step with the ventricles or lower chambers. This interferes with the heart’s steady heartbeat and thus reduces the efficiency with which blood is pumped in the heart and blood stasis or pooling can occur. Blood that does not flow due to being pooled in the atria then begins to form into clots. These clots can dislodge and travel in the bloodstream, potentially blocking blood vessels in the brain and leading to ischaemic stroke.
Is this something that I need to be aware of?
Atrial fibrillation affects 6.3 million people in the US, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, UK and Spain. With an ageing population, this is expected to increase to 7.5 million people by 2017. It is estimated that the prevalence of atrial fibrillation is 1% of the total population and the prevalence of the Atrial fibrillation rises sharply with advancing age. This figure increases to over 10% in people over the age of 80. Nearly one in four people will develop AF in their lifetime, with a slightly higher incidence in men than in women(24% vs 22%, respectively).
Are you at risk?
The risk of developing atrial fibrillation does increases with age, roughly doubling with each decade. There are, however, other risk factors and these include structural heart disease, valvular disease, hypertension, diabetes, thyroid disease, alcohol and substance misuse, and family history of atrial fibrillation.
How can I recognize the symptoms of atrial fibrillation?
Many patients with atrial fibrillation may not display any symptoms and therefore are unaware of their condition. Patients with atrial fibrillation may experience palpitations, fatigue and weakness, dizziness or fainting, shortness of breath, angina(chest pains).
What are the complications associated with atrial fibrillation?
Ischaemic stroke is a major complication associated with atrial fibrillation. This is caused by a piece of blood clot leaving the atria, passing into the circulation and blocking a blood vessel which supplies the brain with oxygen and nutrients.
Persistent atrial fibrillation also increases the risk of heart failure and death. Atrial fibrillation is associated with a reduction in quality of life, including day-to-day functioning and well-being, due to severity of symptoms and complexities of current anticoagulation therapy.
Is there an impact of atrial fibrillation on stroke?
People with atrial fibrillation are at higher risk of developing a blood clot which increases the risk of stroke by up to 5 times. Strokes related to atrial fibrillation tend to be more severe than those related to other conditions. The first time a person suffers a stroke, it is often particularly severe. In fact 20% will be fatal and 60% of these will result in disabling. Approximately 50% of people who have a stroke related to atrial fibrillation are estimated to die within a year. Among the survivors with atrial fibrillation, the recurrence of stroke is more frequent and brain damage is more likely to be severe.
What are the consequences of stroke?
Stroke is a leading cause of premature death and disability and its consequences can be devastating, both to the affected individual and their family. Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke and of these over 5 million are fatal and another 5 million are left permanently disabled. Stroke can result in paralysis, pain, loss of speech and understanding, and affect memory, thought and emotional processes.
What can I do if I think I have the symptoms of atrial fibrillation?
See your doctor today and get screened for atrial fibrillation. Your doctor will be able to advise you on your treatment options where necessary or call our hotline 12345678 today to find out more about atrial fibrillation.
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