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Many With Irregular Heartbeat Unaware of Raised Stroke Risk

FRIDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Half of the 2.7 million Americans affected by an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, deny or do not know they are at greater risk for stroke, according to a new survey from the American Heart Association (AHA).

"While there's a lot known about atrial fibrillation, there's a lot unknown as well," Dr. Mark Estes III, professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, said in a news release from the heart association. "The American Heart Association's goal for atrial fibrillation is to bridge those knowledge gaps through research and education. By helping people better understand their risks, we can impact treatment and prevention of atrial fibrillation and atrial fibrillation-related strokes."

The AHA surveyed 502 people living with atrial fibrillation. Despite being the third-leading cause of death in the United States (behind heart disease and cancer), the survey revealed that just 8 percent of those polled considered stroke to be their greatest health concern. On the contrary, 25 percent said they were not at risk for stroke and another 25 percent didn't know if they were at risk.

Moreover, the AHA survey revealed that only two-thirds of those polled received information on their increased risk of stroke from their doctor. Of the 66 percent that did talk to their doctors, 21 percent said they were told they have no risk for stroke.

"Patients need to be aware of this risk and have serious conversations with their health care providers about what they should be doing to prevent stroke," concluded Estes.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on atrial fibrillation and stroke.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Sept. 20, 2011

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