Prevent Irregular Heartbeats To Prevent Stroke


Prevent Irregular Heartbeats To Prevent Stroke

Prevent Irregular Heartbeats To Prevent Stroke

Irregular rhythm of the heart has the potential to cause further complications, like stroke. Experts in this report by SADE OGUNTOLA, advise ageing adults and those at higher risk of irregular heartbeats to learn about the condition and associated risks.

Atrial fibrillation, an irregular often rapid heartbeat is often the result of some emotional or physical stress. It may also happen due to hormonal triggers.

But atrial fibrillation, which often comes as palpitations, irregular pulse, shortness of breath, fatigue, pain in the chest and dizziness, can increase the risk of stroke by almost five times.



Ironically, cases of abnormal rate or rhythm of the heart are under-reported and are an unrecognised risk factor for stroke in Nigeria, like many other sub-Sahara African countries.

A shockingly high number of people are diagnosed with atrial fibrillation every year and a larger number still are estimated to be living with the condition undetected.

“You will find more people with atrial fibrillation when you visit a hospital  such as University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, and most of them have developed its complications,” said Dr Abiodun Adeoye, a consultant cardiologist at the UCH, Ibadan.

Dr Adeoye said most of these people are unaware of the condition since it gives no signs or symptoms.

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“Cases of atrial fibrillation is underreported in studies by researchers even though more and more people are coming down with stroke, heart failure and all that,” he noted.

A normal heart rate should be regular and between 60 and 100 beats a minute when resting. The heart rate can be measured by feeling the pulse on the neck or wrist.

Dr Adeoye added: “You can check the pulse on your hand to know if it is regular or not. It is not all irregular pulses that are due to atrial fibrillation. But if one has an irregular pulse, the chances of having atrial fibrillation are higher than in someone with a normal heart rate.”

In atrial fibrillation, the heart rate is irregular and can sometimes be very fast, in some cases higher than 100 beats a minute.

Prevent Irregular Heartbeats To Prevent Stroke

It is the most common heart rhythm disturbance and can affect adults of any age. But it’s more common in older people. It affects about seven in 100 people aged over 65.

This is unlike heart palpitations, where individuals may be aware of noticeable heart palpitations, where the heart feels like its pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly, often for a few seconds or, in some cases, a few minutes.

Sadly, these abnormal heart rhythms are sometimes associated with hypertension, cardiomyopathy, also called heart muscle disease, and rheumatic heart disease in sub-Sahara Africa.

Experts’ review of studies on atrial fibrillation in sub-Sahara Africa that described subpopulations of stroke patients showed an atrial fibrillation prevalence ranging from 1.5 per cent to 17.6 per cent- which was much lower than expected based on the knowledge that 20 per cent to 30 per cent of all strokes are due to atrial fibrillation.

This 2109 review in the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology indicated that prevalence increased with age from 0.46 per cent in people aged 70 to 74 years up to 1.3 per cent to those age 85 years and older. Its incidence was different between men (0.31 per cent) and women (0.96 per cent).

Complications of atrial fibrillation included heart failure in about two thirds and stroke in 10 per cent to 15 per cent of cases. It is also associated with an increased risk of dementia and chronic kidney disease.

Now, the review indicated that in patients with known heart disease presenting at the hospital, the prevalence of atrial fibrillation varied from 3.8 per cent to 59.0 per cent.

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