National Stroke Association and iRhythm Technologies are observing National Atrial Fibrillation (Afib) Awareness Month with insights from a new survey evaluating public awareness
The survey of 1,013 Americans shows a lack of awareness of symptoms associated with Afib in the general population. Nearly half of the respondents do not know about the primary symptoms of Afib such as pounding, fluttering, racing sensations in the chest, and heart palpitations. A majority of the population is unaware of other common symptoms such as shortness of breath (63 percent not aware), dizziness or light-headedness (66 percent not aware) and fatigue (73 percent not aware). Almost 80 percent of respondents lack the knowledge that Afib could have no symptoms at all.
"Afib is an important cause of stroke especially as we get older. Primary symptoms of Afib include racing or pounding sensations in the chest, palpitations, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Patients with any of these symptoms--especially those over 65 years of age or who have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, or prior stroke--should ask their healthcare provider about Afib," explained National Stroke Association board member Dr. Philip Gorelick. "Because you can have Afib without any symptoms, an electrocardiogram or prolonged heart rhythm monitoring test may be needed to detect Afib. If you have Afib and are at high risk of stroke based on your medical history, your doctor may recommend oral anticoagulant therapy. Oral anticoagulant therapy substantially reduces the risk of stroke in persons with Afib."
Afib is a leading risk factor for stroke, making a person five times more likely to have a stroke. About 15 percent of all people who have strokes have Afib as well. The survey revealed that while nearly half (45 percent) of Americans are aware that Afib may increase stroke risk, only 17 percent are aware that it increases risk five-fold. Stroke in patients with Afib results in worse outcomes than non-Afib-related stroke, including higher mortality, stroke recurrence, and greater functional impairment and dependency.
Survey findings include :
>>While the majority (64 percent) of Americans know that Afib can cause a heart attack, fewer than half (45 percent) know it can cause a stroke and only 34 percent that it can cause blood clots.
>>Only half of Americans are aware of pounding, fluttering, or racing sensations in the chest (51 percent) or heart palpitations (50 percent) as symptoms of Afib.
>>Only 21 percent are aware Afib may have no symptoms.
>>Fewer than 1 in 5 are aware that sleep apnea (16 percent) and diabetes (14 percent) are risk factors for Afib.
>>Forty-four percent are aware that they can take doctor-prescribed medication to restore the heart's normal rhythm; 32 percent are aware that it is possible to take doctor-prescribed medication to prevent blood clots; and 31 percent are aware that it is possible to take doctor-prescribed medication to slow down the rate of the heartbeat.
Source: National Stroke Association, stroke.org