Despite the fact that one in four atrial fibrillation (AF) patients named stroke as a major health concern, only 50 percent understand that their disease burden, AF, puts them at a heightened risk for stroke, according to a survey put forth by the American Heart Association (AHA), and prepared by Synovate.
The online survey, fielded July 18 to 26, included data from 502 respondents and aimed to outline what AF patients perceive to be their biggest health risk. Additionally, the survey looked at respondents’ knowledge of stroke, warning signs of stroke and stroke prevention strategies.
The survey reported that knowledge and awareness of stroke risk varies significantly among AF patients. For example, while nearly all patients claimed to understand the definition of stroke, just over half correctly defined it in correct terms. This indicates the room for improvement for these patients to be educated on stroke warning signs.
Of those diagnosed with AF, 42 percent said that they were most concerned about the potential of heart disease or MI, while 10 percent said that they were most concerned about becoming diabetic. Only 8 percent of respondents said that they believed stroke was their greatest health concern.
Of the patients surveyed, 25 percent said that they believed that they were not at a risk for stroke, even despite their condition; and 25 percent said they did not know. Two-thirds of the patients said that their healthcare provider spoke with them about their elevated risk of stroke with AF. Among these 66 percent of patients, 21 percent said that they were told they were not at risk for stroke.
While only 8 percent of patients said their greatest health concern was stroke, 26 percent said that they most feared stroke and 15 percent said they feared MI.
The survey reported that patients between the ages of 55 and 64 years were better able to identify the true warning signs of stroke—sudden confusion, sudden numbness or dizziness. While patients under the age of 55 are more likely to rely on diet and exercise as a means of stroke prevention, patients age 55 and up are more reliant on medications, particularly blood thinners.
“Patients need to be aware of this risk and have serious conversations with their healthcare providers about what they should be doing to prevent stroke,” Mark Estes III, MD, professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, said in a statement.