LONDON, December 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --
• Atrial Fibrillation (AF) will affect 1 in 4 people in the UK and increases the risk of stroke by nearly 500%; the number of AF patients in the UK is expected to more than double by 2050
• AF is vastly under-treated, only 18 per cent of UK patients with AF receive treatment that adequately reduces their elevated risk of stroke
• Adherence to current treatment guidelines and routine pulse checks in primary care could prevent many of the 12,000 AF-related strokes experienced in the UK every year
Urgent, major improvements are needed in the detection, diagnosis and management of atrial fibrillation (AF, a common irregular heartbeat) to avoid a stroke epidemic in the UK, according to a major new report from the Atrial Fibrillation Association (AFA) and AntiCoagulation Europe UK (ACE UK), published today at http://www.preventaf-strokecrisis.org.
The AF Report not only exposes the massive scale of the challenge we face, it identified six areas of action required to prevent AF from causing an epidemic of tragic, debilitating, fatal and avoidable strokes. These include:
• The introduction of a targeted programme of routine manual pulse checks by GPs
• A critical need for the UK to follow international guidelines on the management of AF
• A major public and patient educational programme to improve AF detection and diagnosis
• Equal access to AF treatments and services, regardless of location
• Improved GP education on the importance of patient education and appropriate referral
• Government-supported research into the causes, prevention and treatment of AF
The Report highlights that 12,000 strokes in the UK each year are a direct result of AF, the most common sustained heart rhythm disorder, which will affect one in four Britons. AF increases the risk of debilitating, fatal, costly strokes by nearly 500%.
However, many of these strokes could be prevented with anticoagulation therapy if used in accordance with existing international guidelines. Despite widespread availability of these treatments, only 18 per cent of AF patients who could benefit from anticoagulation receive adequate therapy.
AF is responsible for 45% of embolic strokes (the most common kind, caused by blood clots). It is also responsible for strokes that are more severe, which lead to greater disability, increase the risk of a further stroke and are more expensive for the NHS.
AF and AF-related illnesses cost the NHS over £2.2 billion each year. In the past 20 years, there has been a 60% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital as a result of the condition.
"The severity of stroke is matched by the extraordinarily high cost of the condition to the NHS," said Trudie Lobban MBE, Atrial Fibrillation Association Chief Executive and Founder. "But the problem goes beyond this. AF increases the risk of heart failure more than three-fold, doubles mortality rates and leaves over a third of patients with chronic anxiety or depression.
"Given the high burden and the high rate of under-treatment, we also today launch http://www.afstrokerisk.org which enables anyone with AF to answer a simple set of questions which generate a comprehensive report on their personal stroke risk. We urge anyone with AF to use this new tool."
"The detection of AF and subsequent prevention of stroke with appropriate anticoagulant treatment must be a key priority in health services," said Eve Knight, Co-Founder and CEO of AntiCoagulation Europe. "If existing guidelines were followed, then many more at-risk AF patients would receive the life-saving anticoagulation that they need. With the addition of routine pulse checks we could revolutionise detection and management of AF," she added.
About Atrial Fibrillation
AF is a heart rhythm disorder (a cardiac arrhythmia) of the atria. The normal beat of the heart is managed by a sophisticated electrical control system. In AF, chaotic electrical activity develops in the walls of the atria, over-riding the heart's natural rhythm. Instead of beating regularly the atria begin to fibrillate; quivering with a shallow, fast rhythm.
AF disrupts the efficient pumping of blood through the heart. The disturbance in flow can allow clots to form where the blood moves too slowly. The blood stream can then carry these clots to vessels in the brain causing deadly blockages that result in stroke.
About Anticoagulation Europe (ACE)
AntiCoagulation Europe (ACE) is a UK registered charity founded in the year 2000. It works with patients, healthcare professionals, NHS trusts, Industry, Governments, other charities and patient groups and a wide range of other organisations. The aims of ACE are: The prevention of thrombosis; The provision of information, education and support; The promotion of independence and supporting people to take an active part in their own healthcare. http://www.anticoagulationeurope.org
About the Atrial Fibrillation Association (AFA)
Atrial Fibrillation Association (AFA) is a UK registered charity which focuses on raising awareness of Atrial Fibrillation (AF) by providing information and support materials for patients and medical professionals involved in detecting, diagnosing and managing AF. It works closely with medical professionals, Department of Health, government, NHS Trusts, PCTs, patients, carers, patient support group members and allied groups. http://www.atrialfibrillation.org.uk
SOURCE Atrial Fibrillation Association