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Survey Reveals How AFib Patients Age 65+ View Risks, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published February 23, 2015

Results Show Patient Concern about Stroke Risk Has Risen Over Time

Stethoscope lying on electrocardiogram.

(For the press kit please click here)

Washington, D.C., February 23, 2015 – A survey of more than 500 patients ages 65 and over with atrial fibrillation (AFib) reveals significant insights about the condition’s impact on older adults. The disease is the most common type of arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm, that can lead to stroke and heart-related conditions. It affects more than five million Americans and becomes increasingly common with age.

A primary finding of the survey, which was released by the nonprofit Alliance for Aging Research, was concerning usage of anticoagulant medications to reduce their risk of stroke. Sixty percent of patients said they currently use anticoagulant medications. Of those who did not report taking them, the primary reason was concern over complications or side effects, including 38 percent who believed it could cause internal bleeding.

Respondents were largely more concerned about the risk of stroke if they do not take anticoagulant medications (42 percent) than the risk of bleeding if they did (9 percent). The concern about the risk of stroke has grown since a 2012 survey in which 34 percent reported worries about stroke risk. Overall, 13 percent of respondents said they are very or extremely worried about having a stroke versus 11 percent in the 2012 survey.

The survey also reveals insights on first diagnosis of AFib. It found that 50 percent of respondents first learned of their AFib after going to the ER (33 percent) or health care professional (17 percent) because they felt symptoms. However, 45 percent of respondents did not experience symptoms significant enough to report. They instead were diagnosed at a regular office visit or when they went to a medical appointment for something else.

The survey finds that respondents valued self-education about the disease, with 62 percent doing research on their own. Of that number, 79 percent searched online for information.

For a complete overview of the survey, please go here.

“Atrial fibrillation is not often talked about beyond the commercials we all see on TV. Yet, one in 25 Americans age 60 and over has AFib, and those diagnosed with it are five times more likely to have a stroke,” says Lindsay Clarke, vice president of health programs for the Alliance. “Our survey shows that the majority of seniors living with AFib did their own research after diagnosis or during treatment. This means that there needs to be quality information available. In honor of American Heart Month, we launched our Living with AFib educational campaign. We ask others to help us spread the word about it. Because if we can effectively educate seniors with AFib about the disease, we can help prevent stroke—and that’s something we can all celebrate.”

The Alliance’s Living with AFib campaign has free resources that give a comprehensive overview of the disease. It includes:

  • Two animated “pocket films:” Living with Atrial Fibrillation, which offers a synopsis of the disease, and Preventing Stroke from Atrial Fibrillation, a guide on how patients can balance stroke risk and the risk of complications for anticoagulation. Both are produced in a compelling, animated format that makes them accessible and shareable. Spanish versions of the films are also available.
  • A brochure that gives everything a person needs to know about AFib in a more traditional format.
  • An online quiz that tests AFib knowledge.

All of these resources can be found here. The Alliance is also posting information on Twitter at @aging_research using hashtag #LivingwithAFib.

In addition, statistics on AFib and thrombosis are available here.

For more information about the campaign, please contact Noel Lloyd, communications manager, at 202.370.7852 or through email.

About the Alliance for Aging Research
The Alliance for Aging Research is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the pace of scientific discoveries and their application in order to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging and health. The Alliance was founded in 1986 in Washington, D.C., and has since become a valued advocacy organization and a respected influential voice with policymakers. Visit for more information.


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