Pulse racing? Check it out in a heartbeat
Atrial fibrillation affects 1% to 2% of Asian population
An abnormally fast and irregular heartbeat could be a precursor to something as serious as a stroke.
This condition, known as atrial fibrillation, happens when the heart's upper chambers contract randomly, which causes an irregular and sometimes abnormally fast heart rate.
Sometimes, this happens so quickly that the heart muscles are unable to relax properly in between contractions.
The result? Reduced efficiency in the heart and sluggish blood flow, leading to the formation of blood clots, said Dr Julian Tan from The Heart Specialist Clinic.
"These blood clots can exit the heart and enter the blood circulation of the brain, resulting in stroke," said the consultant interventional cardiologist.
In some extreme cases, the atrial fibrillation could lead to heart failure.
Said Dr Tan: "I have seen many patients with atrial fibrillation who, for some reason or other, do not take blood thinners, develop debilitating strokes - coma, inability to talk, bed-bound.
"Please speak to your friendly cardiologist who can best advise on stroke risk reduction for those with atrial fibrillation."
WHAT CAUSES ATRIAL FIBRILLATION?
The usual atrial fibrillation seen in older patients are often associated with hypertension, ischaemic heart disease and heart failure.
The less common causes of atrial fibrillation include degeneration of atrial arrhythmias into atrial fibrillation in younger patients and also include obesity, febrile illness, thyroid disease and post-operative states.
HOW COMMON IS IT?
Atrial fibrillation is estimated to occur in 1 per cent to 2 per cent of the Asian population and in more than 10 per cent of patients who are older than 80 years old.
HOW MANY SUCH PATIENTS GO ON TO DEVELOP A STROKE?
The risk of a stroke developing as a result of atrial fibrillation depends on the risk factors of the patient.
These risk factors include heart failure, hypertension, being older than 75 years of age, diabetes mellitus and history of stroke.
Women have a higher risk.
The more risk factors one has, the higher the risk of stroke from atrial fibrillation.
HOW DO SUCH PATIENTS PREVENT A STROKE FROM DEVELOPING?
If one has a significant risk for developing stroke, the best way to drastically lower the risk - complete prevention is not possible, unfortunately - is by taking blood thinners.
The blood thinners in the market include Warfarin and the new oral anti-coagulants such as Eliquis.
ARE THERE ANY SAFETY CONCERNS WHEN CHOOSING BLOOD THINNERS?
Eliquis works better than Warfarin in reducing stroke risk and is safer than Warfarin, causing less bleeding complications.