September Declared Atrial Fibrillation Month

By: Alere Staff
Publication Date: Tue, Mon, 09/10/2012

If you have atrial fibrillation (AF), you are not alone. An estimated 5 million patients have been diagnosed with this common heart rhythm disturbance, a number that is expected to exceed 16 million by the year 2050.1

To improve the awareness, prevention, and treatment of AF, Mellanie True Hills, owner and author of the website StopAfib.org, has declared September as Atrial Fibrillation month. This month’s content on StopAfib.org will be dedicated to the education of patients with this common arrhythmia.

AF is a condition where the upper chambers of the heart, the atria, do not contract in a normal, rhythmic pattern. Some patients experience a fluttering in the chest or light-headedness, but many have no symptoms at all. AF increases the risk of stroke due to compromised blood circulation in the upper chambers of the heart. Blood that pools in the atria can form a clot that can enter the blood stream, travel to the brain, and cause a stroke.

AF affects 12% of all people aged 75 years and older and increases the risk of stroke five-fold.2 In fact, one third of AF patients will experience a stroke in their lifetime if AF is left untreated, which would result in approximately 140,000 strokes annually. Stroke remains the most common cause of adult disability.1

There is good news for patients with atrial fibrillation. Doctors who prescribe warfarin can help significantly reduce the risk of stroke for patients with AF. To improve the efficacy and safety of warfarin, Medicare and many private insurance companies now reimburse for home monitoring of warfarin therapy. Home testing allows for more frequent International Normalized Ratio (INR) testing, a testing frequency that has been shown to reduce bleeding and stroke risk when compared to monthly monitoring.3

Since September is atrial fibrillation awareness month, it is a good time for patients to speak to their doctors about home INR monitoring to improve the safety of oral anticoagulation therapy.

  1. True Hills, M. (2007). Atrial Fibrillation Patient to Patient. Retrieved April 16, 2008, from StopAfib.org Web site:  http://www.stopafib.org/newsitem.cfm/NEWSID/92
  2. Mant, J., et al. (2007). Warfarin versus aspirin for stroke prevention in the elderly community population with atrial fibrillation (the BATAFA study) a randomized controlled trial. Lancet, 370 (9586), 493-503.
  3. Heneghan C., et al. (2006). Self-monitoring of oral anticoagulation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet, 367, 404-11.