Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Atrial fibrillation is a 'modifiable' risk factor for stroke

Date:
October 29, 2012
Source:
European Society of Cardiology (ESC)
Summary:
There is good evidence that people with an irregular heart beat should have it checked by a doctor. The link between atrial fibrillation -- the most common disturbance of heart rhythm -- and risk of stroke is now beyond dispute, with studies indicating that diagnosed atrial fibrillation (AF) increases the risk of stroke five times. Similarly, one in five patients diagnosed with stroke are also found to have AF.

There is good evidence that people with an irregular heart beat should have it checked by a doctor. The link between atrial fibrillation -- the most common disturbance of heart rhythm -- and risk of stroke is now beyond dispute, with studies indicating that diagnosed atrial fibrillation (AF) increases the risk of stroke five times. Similarly, one in five patients diagnosed with stroke are also found to have AF.

Atrial fibrillation, whose prevalence continues to rise, was described last year as the "new epidemic" in cardiovascular disease, even though AF can be successfully controlled by the detection and management of risk factors, by rhythm control treatments, and by the use of antithrombotic therapies.(1) These therapies have been improved in the past few years by the introduction of new anticoagulant drugs, such that AF -- like high blood pressure or smoking -- may now be considered a "modifiable" risk factor for stroke, whose treatment can reduce the degree of risk.

Professor Freek Verheugt, from the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis in Amsterdam and speaking on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), says: "All individuals with irregular heart beat should see a doctor, who can diagnose whether this heart rhythm disorder is likely to lead to stroke. If so, blood thinning medication can reduce the risk of stroke by up to 70%."

The latest ESC Clinical Practice Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, which were revised this year, describe stroke as the "second major cardiovascular disease" (after coronary heart disease) and, like CHD, with enormous scope for prevention.(2) Indeed, more than 50% of the reductions seen in heart disease mortality over recent decades relate to changes in risk factors. In addition, the treatments prescribed to lower blood pressure, for example, also reduce the risk of stroke, such that stroke prevention is still the most evident effect of antihypertensive treatment.

The Interstroke study, which was reported in 2010 following an analysis of stroke data from 22 countries, indicates that just ten risk factors are associated with 90% of total stroke risk.(3) The highest attributable effect of individual risk factors was 35% from hypertension, 26.5% for waist-to-hip ratio, and 19% for current smoking.(3)

The ESC emphasises that most of these risks for stroke are also the same major risks for coronary heart disease -- high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and excessive alcohol consumption. In addition, AF, this common disorder of heart rhythm, is also clearly associated with an increased risk of stroke. Indeed, the very latest ESC guidelines on AF, published in August, state: "Diagnosing AF before the first complications occur is a recognized priority for the prevention of strokes," and that "even short episodes of 'silent' AF convey an increased risk for stroke." (4)

While the guidelines advise that the evidence in favour of aspirin in stroke prevention is "weak," they add that a new range of anticoagulant drugs are "broadly preferable" for stroke prevention in AF, but, because experience remains limited, they are recommended within the context of "strict adherence to approved indications." The guidelines state that these novel anticoagulants "offer efficacy, safety, and convenience" compared with previous therapies.

Professor Verheugt emphasises that stroke is not an inevitable consequence of aging and that, by identifying and modifying risk factors, there are substantial opportunities to reduce stroke risk -- through lifestyle interventions and the control of high blood pressure and AF.

1. Atrial fibrillation is now prevalent in almost 2% of the general population, with the average age of patients steadily rising -- presently between 75 and 85 years. AF is associated with a five-fold risk of stroke and three-fold risk of heart failure.

2. European Clinical Practice Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice (version 2012), Eur Heart J 2012; 33: 1635-1701.

3. O'Donnell MJ, Xavier D, Liu L, et al. Risk factors for ischaemic and intracerebral haemorrhagic stroke in 22 countries (the INTERSTROKE study): a case-control study. Lancet 2010; 376: 112-123.

4. The Task Force for the management of atrial fibrillation of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). 2012 focused update of the ESC Guidelines for the Management of Atrial Fibrillation. Eur Heart J 2012; doi:10.1093/eurheartj/.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Society of Cardiology (ESC). "Atrial fibrillation is a 'modifiable' risk factor for stroke." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121029082225.htm>.
European Society of Cardiology (ESC). (2012, October 29). Atrial fibrillation is a 'modifiable' risk factor for stroke. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121029082225.htm
European Society of Cardiology (ESC). "Atrial fibrillation is a 'modifiable' risk factor for stroke." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121029082225.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Sierra Leone's Nationwide Ebola Curfew Underway

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) Sierra Leone is locked down as aid workers and volunteers look for new cases of Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Changes Found In Brain After One Dose Of Antidepressants

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) A study suggest antidepressants can kick in much sooner than previously thought. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins