All about AF in 5 simple questions

In association with AF180 Degrees / 17 November 2017

This week is AF Association – Global AF Aware Week – why is awareness of atrial fibrillation (AF) and AF-related stroke so important?



Did you know that every 15 seconds someone in the UK suffers from an AF-related stroke?(1) It is a surprising figure. While you may have heard of stroke, what is AF? Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorder) which causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rhythm.(2) It is the most common arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorder) in the UK and the risk of developing it increases as people get older.(2)

Whilst AF is not usually life-threatening,(2) many people are not aware that AF is a major cause of AF-related stroke, and if it is left undetected and unmanaged, it can leave people at an increased risk of AF-related stroke.(3)

As part of AF Association - Global AF Aware Week, the AF180° campaign is aiming to raise awareness of AF and AF-related stroke, and to help make sure that people with AF receive the right care and attention they need.

So, what is critical to know? Here are five key questions and, more importantly, the critical information you should be aware of.

1. Why do I need to know about AF? 

It is important that you are aware of AF because AF carries an increased risk of stroke.(4) AF is a major cause of AF-related stroke in the UK(4) and people with AF are five-times more likely to have an AF-related stroke than people without AF.(4)

Despite this, research by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that currently only 8% of those over 65 years of age in the UK are checked for AF.(5) Consequently, experts estimate that at least a third of people with AF in the UK are undiagnosed meaning they could be at an increased risk of an AF-related stroke if their AF remains undiagnosed and unmanaged.(4, 6)

The good news is that the risk of an AF-related stroke can be managed.(7) Anticoagulants are recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to reduce the risk of AF-related stroke in some people with AF.(8) Therefore, it is important, if you have AF, that you go to visit your healthcare professional to see if you need to be prescribed anticoagulation therapy.(7) According to guidelines, as well as receiving appropriate anticoagulation therapy to reduce your risk of an AF-related stroke, people with AF should also have access to treatment options for AF.(8)

The more you know about AF, the better equipped you will be to know the signs and symptoms of AF as well as the kind of information you should seek from a healthcare professional, whether for your own benefit or for your family and friends.

2. Am I at risk of AF? 

While AF can affect adults of any age, like many conditions, people are more likely to get AF as they get older.(2) AF affects about 7 in 100 people aged over 65.(2) It is also more common in men than women.(2) At the moment, the exact causes of AF are not fully understood,(2) but the risk of developing AF is thought to increase if a person has:(9)

• A family history of AF 

• Another heart condition or cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis or heart failure  

• Diabetes 

• Thyroid disorders 

• Regularly has more than the recommended level of alcohol intake

3. So, what are the symptoms of AF? 

The symptoms of AF can include dizziness, shortness of breath, tiredness and noticeable heart palpitations.(2) However, in some cases AF does not cause any symptoms and a person can be unaware that they have an irregular heart rhythm, so it is important to know the risk factors associated with AF to understand if you need to be checked by your doctor.(2)

4. How is AF detected?  

The good news is that AF can easily be detected and the simplest way of identifying AF is to have your pulse checked.(10) If the rhythm of the pulse seems irregular this may indicate AF.(10) It is important to speak to your healthcare professional for them to confirm a diagnosis of AF.

People over the age of 65 should be screened by their GP in order to assess their risk of an AF-related stroke and prescribe appropriate anticoagulant therapy to reduce their risk of AF-related stroke.(11)

5. Where can I go for more information about AF? 

If you, or someone you know, wants to find out more information visit www.AF180.co.uk

The AF180° campaign aims to support change in order to prevent AF-related strokes in line with national clinical guidelines.(12) The campaign is aimed at people with an interest in the prevention of AF-related stroke, including patients.(12)

The AF180 Degrees Campaign (AF180°) has been initiated and funded by an Alliance between Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Pfizer Ltd (the BMS-Pfizer Alliance), working in collaboration with the AF Association, Anticoagulation UK, and Arrhythmia Alliance. A Steering Committee of expert healthcare professionals have been involved in its development. As part of the funding for the campaign, the BMS-Pfizer Alliance has paid participants for their time and expenses related to the campaign.(12)


References

1. Arrhythmia Alliance. Atrial Fibrillation. AF-Related Stroke. Available at: http://www.heartrhythmalliance.org/afa/uk/af-related-stroke Last accessed: November 2017

2. NHS Choices. Atrial Fibrillation. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atrial-fibrillation/Pages/Introduction.aspx Last accessed: November 2017 

3. Anticoagulation Europe. New Report Confirms UK is On the Brink Of a Stroke Crisis. Available at: http://www.anticoagulationeurope.org/blog/campaigns/uk-on-brink-of-a-stroke-crisis Last accessed: November 2017

4. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) 2014. Atrial Fibrillation: Management: Thousands Of Strokes In People With Common Heart Rhythm Disorder Are Avoidable, Says NICE. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg180/documents/thousands-of-strokes-in-people-with-common-heart-rhythm-disorder-are-avoidable-says-nice Last accessed: November 2017

5. Economist Intelligence Unit. 2017. Preventing Stroke: Uneven Progress: A Global Policy Research Programme. Available at: http://www.eiuperspectives.economist.com/sites/default/files/Preventing%20Stroke_Uneven%20Progress_1.pdf Last accessed: November 2017

6. British Heart Foundation. 2017. Thousands Of People Undiagnosed With Irregular Heartbeat Increasing Risk Of Stroke. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/news-from-the-bhf/news-archive/2017/may/thousands-of-people-undiagnosed-with-irregular-heartbeat-increasing-risk-of-stroke. Last accessed: November 2017

7.  National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) 2014. Atrial Fibrillation: Medicines To Help Reduce Your Risk Of Stroke – What Are The Options? Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg180/resources/patient-decision-%20aid-243734797. Last accessed: November 2017

8. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) 2014. Atrial Fibrillation: Management Clinical Guideline [CG180] June 2014 Available at https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg180. Last accessed: November 2017 

9. Heart Rhythm Alliance. Atrial Fibrillation. AF Information & Advice For Patients. Available at: http://www.heartrhythmalliance.org/afa/uk/atrial-fibrillation Last accessed: November 2017

10. Heart Rhythm Alliance. Atrial Fibrillation. Detecting Atrial Fibrillation. Available at: http://www.heartrhythmalliance.org/afa/uk/detecting-atrial-fibrillation Last accessed: November 2017

11. European Society of Cardiology. 2016. Guidelines For The Management Of Atrial Fibrillation Developed In Collaboration With EACTS. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/eurheartj/ehw210. Last accessed: November 2017

12. AF180 Degrees Campaign (www.AF180.co.uk). Available at: http://www.af180.co.uk Last accessed: November 2017

AF 180 Degrees logo

The AF180 Degrees Campaign (AF180o) has been initiated and funded by an Alliance between Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceuticals Ltd and Pfizer Ltd (the BMS-Pfizer Alliance), working in collaboration with the AF Association, Anticoagulation UK, and Arrhythmia Alliance. A Steering Committee of expert healthcare professionals have been involved in its development. As part of the funding for the campaign, the BMS-Pfizer Alliance has paid participants for their time and expenses related to the campaign.

Job bag number: 432UK1701347-03

Date of prep: November 2017

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