Atrial fibrillation can trigger a stroke
According to experts, atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia. The risk of developing this increases exponentially with age. However, many sufferers do not even notice the flicker. For this reason, cardiologists recommend having preventive examinations because atrial fibrillation favors strokes with serious consequences.
Atrial fibrillation is often associated with other heart diseases. People report sudden breathlessness, rising heat in the head and a feeling of pressure in the chest. In addition, there is an uncomfortable, frightening racing heart. Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, which affects around a million Germans. What many sufferers do not know - this increases their risk of stroke dramatically.
"The risk of developing atrial fibrillation increases exponentially with age," explains Professor Andreas Götte from the Atrial Fibrillation Network. He assumes that the number of people affected will triple within the next 20 years. In the age group of over 60 years, around four percent are affected by atrial fibrillation. Between 20 and 25 percent of the over 80s suffered from it, reports Götte.
The main risk factor is therefore age. In addition, there are previous diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes or an overactive thyroid, which also greatly increase the likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation. In many cases, the cardiac arrhythmia is associated with other basic diseases of the heart. "Atrial fibrillation is a kind of wear and tear, so to speak," explains Professor Thomas Meinertz from the German Heart Foundation in Frankfurt.
Cardiac fibrillation occurs in irregular episodes In atrial fibrillation, both atria can no longer fulfill their actual function. They no longer contract regularly, they just flicker. Therefore the ventricles have to work more. This often causes those affected to feel that their heart is beating irregularly and too fast. However, the majority of patients do not even notice atrial fibrillation. "Atrial fibrillation is associated with a lower ventricular rate in old age and is therefore less often noticed," reports Meinertz. Since the atria normally take on around a quarter of the total cardiac output, this is very dangerous. People with a weaker heart in particular rely on functioning atria. "Who is over 60 years old and belongs to the risk group, should make regular preventive examinations, "advises Meinertz. "Temporary or paroxysmal atrial fibrillation can eventually become permanent atrial fibrillation", adds Heribert Brück from the Federal Association of Resident Cardiologists in Munich.
Then the risk of suffering a stroke is very high. If the blood can no longer circulate in the atrium, it clots. The small clots can come loose and travel to the brain. A stroke resulting from this has a particularly poor prognosis for healing, explains Brück.
Electroshocks and medication for cardiac fibrillation Therapy is intended to ensure a regular heartbeat and to prevent blood clots. Medicines are primarily used to treat cardiac arrhythmias. "Even with electric shocks, the heart can be brought back into motion," reports Professor Sigmund Silber, chairman of the professional association of cardiology specialists in private practice. That is successful in 95 percent of cases. In addition, the causes must be worked on a very well-adjusted blood pressure is necessary. Patients are also given medication for blood clotting. Catheter ablation is only carried out when the other therapies have been exhausted. The procedure destroys the areas of the atria that cause the flickering. "Catheter ablation is a complicated process Intervention that has very high success rates of more than 80 percent, "explains Götte.
Meinertz himself also suffered from atrial fibrillation for 20 years and in the meantime underwent three ablation. He has been symptom-free for more than six years. "Atrial fibrillation is a problem, but it can be remedied," he says from his own experience. A normal life is also possible with atrial fibrillation if there is no other heart disease.
The German Heart Foundation advises over 75-year-olds to use anticoagulants, referring to the guidelines of the European Society for Cardiologists, the German Heart Foundation in Frankfurt am Main reports that atrial fibrillation can be significantly reduced by taking anticoagulant drugs. Meinertz reports that around 30,000 strokes are caused by atrial fibrillation every year. About half would occur in patients over the age of 75. This group of patients had the highest risk of embolism and stroke, but at the same time the greatest benefit was to be achieved by inhibiting coagulation.
Preventive use of anticoagulant medication is not without its problems, even for high-risk patients with a known medical condition. Because the preparations sometimes have considerable side effects. These include, for example, lighter bleeding with bruising (hematoma). However, these are mostly harmless, but can also pose a serious health risk if patients bleed from the urinary tract or the stomach. In such cases, doctors must take immediate countermeasures so as not to endanger the patient's life. Preventive treatment with anticoagulants should therefore be carefully considered. (ag)
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