September is Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month

By: Alere Staff
Publication Date: Mon, 09/03/2012

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is an unusual rhythm of your heart. Atrial fibrillation is often called AF. When your heart doesn’t beat properly, it doesn’t pump your blood the way it should. Blood that doesn’t move out of your heart can begin to clot and this is when and where problems begin.

How do you know if you have atrial fibrillation?

Approximately 70% of people who have AF don’t even know it. Symptoms may include the feeling your heart is racing or the feeling of fluttering in your chest. Shortness of breath and dizziness are also common symptoms of atrial fibrillation. If you or someone you know is over 65 years old an annual doctor’s exam is the best way to detect atrial fibrillation.

Incidence & Risks

People between 50-59 years old have an AF incidence of 6.7% per year and this increases up to 36.2% for people aged 80-89 years old. The annual risk of stroke caused by a blood clot from atrial fibrillation ranges from < 1% per year for people under 65 years old with no other risk factors up to 8.1% per year with 1 or more risk factors1. Risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart failure, and previous stroke.

Warfarin Treatment

There is good news for people with AF. Use of  the prescription drug warfarin can protect against blood clot formation and stroke up to 68% with the risk of major bleeding similar to patients not taking warfarin.1 Warfarin requires regular but easy blood monitoring.2 A simple finger stick will help you and your doctor manage your warfarin and therefore protect you against dangerous blood clots from atrial fibrillation.

More patients are testing their warfarin levels at home than ever before. Patient self-testing or Home INR Monitoring is reimbursed by Medicare3 and most private insurance companies. This allows you the quality of life and freedom to travel while maintaining very good control of your warfarin medication. If you take warfarin, share with your doctor your desire to join the many patients that check their blood levels weekly in the privacy of their home for peace of mind between routine doctor’s office visits or go to the Home INR Monitoring section of this website.

  1. Morgan, S. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea—balancing the risks and potential benefits of warfarin for older people with atrial fibrillation. British Geriatrics Society.  2004; Age and Ageing Vol. 33 No. 6.
  2. Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. Medication Guide for Coumadin Tablets and Coumadin for Injection (Package Insert). 2010. Princeton, NJ: Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.
  3. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Decision Memo for Prothrombin Time (INR) Monitor for Home Anticoagulation Management  (CAG-00087R) [Memorandum]. 2008. Baltimore, MD.