Striking Back at Stroke

New campaign raises awareness about danger of atrial fibrillation

TUESDAY, Dec. 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Three out of four atrial fibrillation-related strokes can be prevented, and more than half of the patients aren't getting the lifesaving medications they need.

That information is part of a public education campaign called "Beat the Odds," which was recently launched by the National Stroke Association. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the dangers of such strokes and how to prevent them.

Atrial fibrillation refers to a type of irregular or "racing" heartbeat that can cause blood to collect in the heart and potentially form a clot. That clot can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

Atrial fibrillation increases a person's stroke risk by 500 percent, and more than 70 percent of people who suffer this type of stroke die or have extreme permanent brain damage.

An estimated 2.2 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, but more than a third aren't aware they have the condition. As many as two-thirds of people who have such strokes are prescribed anticoagulants or blood thinners when they leave the hospital.

While blood-thinning drugs do carry some risks, those are minimal compared to the damage that can be caused by stroke, the campaign says.

The National Stroke Association urges people to talk with their doctors about how to prevent atrial-fibrillation-related stroke and about the latest treatments.

Common symptoms include heart palpitations, a sudden pounding or fluttering or racing sensation in the chest, dizziness or lightheadedness.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about stroke.

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