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Atrial fibrillation

Attention stroke

Atrial fibrillation

Attention stroke

Atrial fibrillation is extremely insidious. The best protection against a stroke is early detection with a blood pressure monitor. Dr Andreas Müller explains. Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder. Among 80-year-olds, one in ten is affected. Almost two-thirds of all patients with newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation have few or no symptoms.
But this is just the calm before the storm. Because patients with atrial fibrillation have a significantly increased risk of a stroke. By no means all episodes of atrial fibrillation cause symptoms. Even long episodes of more than 24 hours can occur unnoticed. Regardless of the symptoms, the risk of stroke is always increased with atrial fibrillation. Often, atrial fibrillation only becomes apparent when patients are admitted to hospital with heart failure or a stroke.
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Detected before it leads to a stroke

Early detection must be urgently improved

Because a stroke is always a dramatic event that can lead to death or severe disabilities with loss of independence and speech, Dr Andreas Müller, Head of Electrophysiology at the Clinic for Cardiology at Zurich's Triemli Municipal Hospital, calls for a consistent improvement in early detection.
"Atrial fibrillation must be detected before it leads to a stroke. I'm concerned about the thousands of people with atrial fibrillation who don't know about it or who don't have effective blood thinning and can therefore suffer a stroke from one hour to the next."

Check your pulse yourself

Accompanying symptoms of atrial fibrillation are palpitations, feeling unwell, shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pain. However, atrial fibrillation can also occur completely unnoticed, leading to a stroke without warning. An easy-to-recognise sign of atrial fibrillation is an irregular pulse.
Anyone over the age of 65 should therefore check their pulse themselves and contact their GP if they notice any irregularities. Atrial fibrillation can be detected even more reliably by measuring blood pressure. All you need is a device with an appropriate warning function. Or you can get a small, mobile ECG device to record your heart rhythm in moments of discomfort and pass it on to your doctor.

Reducing the risk of stroke with blood thinning

If atrial fibrillation is diagnosed, the main thing is to reduce the risk of a stroke with effective blood thinning. This risk is increased even if the atrial fibrillation does not cause any symptoms at all. "Without blood thinning, patients with atrial fibrillation have a stroke risk of up to nine percent," warns Dr. Müller. "This means that every year up to nine out of every 100 people with atrial fibrillation suffer a stroke." Even very old patients with atrial fibrillation should not be deprived of blood-thinning medication to protect them from strokes. The benefits of blood thinning are often even greater in the elderly than in younger people.
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