Atrial Fibrillation’s Small Heart Flutter Causes Big Costs

2010-01-10 | |
Last updated: 2010-01-10

From birth to death, our hearts generally beat in a constant fashion, somewhere between 50 and 80 beats per minute when we are at rest. Having a stronger, healthier heart lowers the rate, but most of us live within that range. Aside from physical exertion and occasional heart pounding excitement, our hearts maintain this rate day after day.

atrial fibrillation health costs

However, in the human body, nothing ever works perfectly for all of us so for some people, the constant rhythm of the heart is not a given and instead they live with an irregular heartbeat. The most common form of beat irregularity is called atrial fibrillation (AF); a condition in which the muscles of the top two chambers of the heart quiver instead of contracting in a controlled manner. Depending on the person, the duration for which these abnormal heart beats can last ranges from a few minutes to always being there.

How Many People Suffer From Atrial Fibrillation?

In the population, 1 in 4 four people will suffer from Atrial Fibrillation for some period during their lifetime. In Britain, Canada and the US, the numbers of people with the condition are 800 thousand, 250 thousand, and 2.2 million respectively. In some countries, like Sweden, as many as 1 in 20 people in their 60s and 70s will be affected by the condition.

What Are The Risks For Developing Atrial Fibrillation?

The risk for development of atrial fibrillation increases with age and for those 80 or older, the risk of the condition is 8-10%. At the same time, however, newer research from the University of Gothenburg has also discovered that those who were larger in their 20s and those who gained considerable weight later in life are more at risk for the condition. This does not mean that the condition is simply another complication of obesity, however, because researchers identified that both those with significant muscle and those with fat mass had an increased risk of the condition.

However obesity is an important factor and related research from the University of Sydney has identified that people with type-2 diabetes have twice the risk of developing atrial fibrillation as compared to the rest of the population. Obesity aside, for diabetic men, atrial fibrillation increases the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 50%. In diabetic women, the risk of dying doubles.

For people with atrial fibrillation, there may be no other symptoms than the strange feeling of the irregular heart beat, but in other cases, the condition can be associated with fainting, pain and fatigue. By far, the major risk for those with the condition is the 5 to 7 times increase in the chance of stroke. This is caused because of an increased risk of blood clots due to the blood not being properly pumped out of the heart. As a consequence of this increased stroke risk, patients with atrial fibrillation are often required to take anti-clotting and beat regulation medications for the rest of their lives.

Another important risk for people with atrial fibrillation is the development of Alzheimer’s. Based on research from Intermountain Medical Center, those with atrial fibrillation were 44% higher more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and particularly those under 70 were 130% more likely to develop the condition that those without atrial fibrillation.

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Category: Disease Information, Health Risks

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