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Date: May 5th, 2004

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New Survey Shows Americans Are Not Making The Life-Saving Link Between Stroke and Irregular Heartbeat

Washington, D.C. - A new survey released today by the not-for-profit Alliance for Aging Research found that most Americans are unaware of one of the strongest risk factors for stroke.

“Over 2.2 million Americans suffer from AF and their chances of suffering a stroke increases with age,” stated Daniel Perry, executive director of the Alliance for Aging Research. “With the unprecedented aging of the Baby Boomer population, it is imperative that Americans make the connection between AF and stroke and take the appropriate actions necessary to prevent what could be a life-altering, or life-ending, event.” 

Other key findings include: 

  • Those at greatest risk for suffering AF, those age 65 and older, do not consider themselves within the age group at highest risk.
  • Sixty-two percent believe AF is a risk factor for heart attack.
  • Over 50 percent believe that strokes due to atrial fibrillation can frequently be prevented. However, over half incorrectly identified lowering your cholesterol as the most effective means of preventing strokes.
  • Only 35 percent correctly identified anticoagulants as the most effective treatment for preventing strokes related to AF.


For those suffering AF, the two upper chambers of the heart (called the atria) quiver instead of contracting effectively. When this happens, blood in these chambers can pool and clot. If this clot becomes loose and travels to the brain, it may cause a debilitation stroke. AF patients are five times more likely to suffer a stroke than those without AF, accounting for about 15-20 percent of all strokes nationally. Patients with AF also tend to have more disabling first strokes compared to those without AF. In fact, people with AF are 70 percent more likely to die from their stroke than people without AF. 

In honor of May being National Stroke Awareness Month, the Alliance today launched an online education campaign to raise awareness of AF and stroke. This program is made possible through an educational sponsorship from AstraZeneca LP. The survey questions are available for visitors to the Alliance website at www.agingresearch.org. Visitors can take the survey and compare their answers to the national results. Additional resources and information on stroke will be available. 

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Founded in 1986, the Alliance for Aging Research is a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to improving the health and independence of aging Americans through public and private funding of medical research and geriatric education. The Alliance combines the interests of top scientists, public officials, business executives and foundation leaders to promote a greater national investment in research and new technologies that will prepare our nation for the coming senior boom, and improve the quality of life for today’s older generation.