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Atrial Fibrillation: A silent condition that increases risk of stroke by five times

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On World Stroke Day, we take a look at the treatment options for the second leading cause of death worldwide.

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is a common heart condition that causes an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). The currently estimated global prevalence of AFib in adults is between 2 and 4 per cent.

AFib can induce the formation of blood clots and is therefore associated with a high number of complications. Among these, what is defined as an embolic stroke, a type of stroke that occurs when a blood clot forms elsewhere in the body breaks loose and travels to the brain via the bloodstream, is undoubtedly the main one.

The risk of stroke increases by almost five-fold in patients suffering from AFib. Clinicians often think of AFib as a silent condition, as it has no symptoms to alert patients of its presence. As a result, this dangerous condition often goes unnoticed, remaining undiagnosed and untreated.

Treatment options to prevent stroke

Prevention is at the heart of reducing the risk of stroke in AFib patients. Today, there are different treatments available to reduce stroke risk in patients with AFib that is not caused by a heart valve problem, also known as non-valvular AFib. The most common treatment prescribed by doctors is anticoagulants, which are medications that prevent blood clots from forming, potentially leading to a stroke.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle also plays a crucial role in reducing the risk for stroke in AFib patients – namely being physically active, making healthy food choices, avoiding smoking, and generally keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check.

Being ranked as the second leading cause of death worldwide, with an annual mortality rate of about 5.5 million, stroke is a condition with severe economic and social implications.

The public health burden of stroke is set to rise further in the coming years. Furthermore, unlike with diabetes and hypertension, there is a general tendency to be less aware of AFib and its increased risk of stroke. Therefore, it is crucial to keep raising awareness about this condition and highlighting the importance of a regular pulse rhythm check. People must visit their doctors for regular check-ups to agree on the best treatment option for their respective situation.

To remain on the frontline of halting the increased risk of strokes in AFib patients, pharmaceutical companies have to keep partnering with patient groups, hospitals, and health organizations across the region to keep raising awareness and running screening and counselling programs. The ultimate goal is to empower people by arming them with the necessary knowledge to safeguard and manage their health in the best way possible.

References available on request.

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