Atrial Fibrillation

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Whilst chatting to people from my local stroke group this week, I found most of us attending knew the cause of the stroke was Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the electrical signals in the heart become disorganised, overriding the heart’s normal rate and rhythm. This causes the heart to beat irregularly, known as fibrillation. Because the blood doesn’t flow through the heart properly, a blood clot can form. The blood clot can then travel to the brain where it can block the blood supply and cause a stroke. Some of the symptoms of AF are dizziness, shortness of breath, rapid palpitations and chest pains which can be often ignored.

The relationship between AF and stroke is something that is definitely getting more recognition now and being taken more seriously as a definite contribution to stroke and heart attack but still many of us are totally unaware of the condition until it’s too late.

Last week a GP highlighted that she was writing a paper on AF, this is encouraging and a huge step in the right direction but also indicates to me that previously perhaps, and this is only me questioning this, it has not been taken seriously enough as a contributing factor. Remember though as I ask the question I am purely a stroke survivor not in any way medically trained.

It is for this reason, that it is believed blood thinning medication can reduce this risk. Each individual is different so your doctor would prescribe the correct medication taking into account any other conditions and or medication being taken.

Recent studies suggest that 2 in 3 strokes in people with AF can be prevented, and people with this condition are up to 6 times more at risk of having a stroke if left untreated, however with the right treatment strokes can be prevented, it is also believed that as many as 1 in 5 stroke survivors admitted to hospital are also diagnosed with AF. It is also identified that loss of ability to carry out normal tasks such as swallowing and brain function have been significantly worse in AF survivors and been noted that their stay in hospital is extended by as much as 20%.

Charities such as the Stroke Association and Different Strokes are determined to create awareness of this condition.

The condition can affect anyone but becomes more common as we get older affecting almost as many as 1 in 10 people over the age of 80.

The Stroke Association stress that people with AF are 5 times more likely to have a stroke and their findings are linked to 25,500 strokes in the UK each year, one person every 3 minutes 20 seconds has a stroke, but with the identification of AF coupled with the correct treatment people reduce their risk of stroke and this saves lives.

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