An estimated quarter of a million Canadians have a type of irregular heartbeat that dramatically increases their risk of having a potentially fatal stroke — but many are not getting the treatment they need, says the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
The foundation says people with atrial fibrillation are five times more likely to have a stroke and twice as likely to die from it.
Yet many of these patients are unaware of their risk and are not receiving blood-thinning medications that significantly reduce the risk of stroke, says Dr. Marco Di Buono, director of research for Heart and Stroke Ontario.
“This is particularly worrisome because living with the effects of stroke for someone with atrial fibrillation is more severe than living with the effects of stroke for someone who doesn’t have underlying atrial fibrillation,” Di Buono said.
Patients with the heart rhythm disorder are in hospital longer after a stroke and are often left with more severe physical and cognitive disabilities, he explained.