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Atrial Fibrillation and Venous Thromboembolism:

Know the facts. See the signs.

World Thrombosis Day (WTD) places a spotlight on the overlooked and often misunderstood disease of thrombosis, promoting global awareness of thrombosis, its causes, risk factors, signs, symptoms and evidence-based prevention and treatment. Thrombosis is the formation of potentially deadly blood clots in the artery (arterial thrombosis), a major cause of stroke in those with atrial fibrillation (AF), or vein (venous thrombosis), resulting in venous thromboembolism (VTE).1

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition in which the heartbeat is rapid and irregular.2 Because the heart beats and contracts irregularly, blood flow may slow or pool and cause the formation of a clot. A blood clot that forms as a result of AF is an example of arterial thromboembolism. If the clot breaks free, it can lodge in an artery, travel to the brain and result in a stroke.3

100% of AF patients should be assessed for their risk of stroke.4

A blood clot that forms in the leg is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).15 If the blood clot detaches and moves to the lungs, it is called a pulmonary embolism (PE).16,17 Collectively, the two related conditions are known as venous thromboembolism (VTE).16

VTE is the leading cause of preventable death in hospitals.18

Gender Age Smoking status General health Treatment options
Fatigue Light-headedness Loss of consciousness (syncope) Chest pain and palpitations Shortness of breath (dyspnea) Up to 20% of patients with AF experience no symptoms12 particularly if their heart rate is not that fast.2 Knowing your pulse is one of the easiest ways to detect a cardiac arrhythmia – check your pulse using the pulse check guide below.
PE: Loss of consciousness (syncope) PE: Coughing up blood (hemoptysis) PE: Rapid breathing (tachypnea) PE: Fast or irregular heart rate (tachycardia) PE: Shortness of breath (dyspnea) PE: Chest pain when breathing DVT: Pain or tenderness in the affected limb DVT: Warmth in the affected limb DVT: Swelling of the affected limb (edema) DVT: Redness of the skin in the affected limb (erythema) PE: Signs of DVT DVT: Dilated veins (collaterals) on the chest wall or leg

Signs and Symptoms1117

Place your cursor over the hotspots to learn more about the signs and symptoms:

Key Statistics

Women with AF are 2.5 times more likely to die from the AF than men5

Women with AF have a higher risk of stroke compared to men6

Women with AF are more likely to display symptoms than men6

Key Statistics

After the age of 55, the percentage of people with AF increases with each advancing decade7

The number of people newly diagnosed with AF each year is approximately 1.1 per 1,000 person-years in those aged 55-60 years, rising to 20.7 per 1,000 person-years in those aged 80-85 years7

Approximately 70% of AF patients are between 65 and 85 years old8

Key Statistics

The risk of developing AF is 1.32 times greater among former smokers compared to those who have never smoked, and more than two-times higher in current smokers9

People who quit smoking have a slightly lower risk of developing AF compared to those who continue to smoke9

The risk of developing AF increases with each year of smoking9

Key Statistics

Risk factors for AF include:
  • Diabetes10
  • Coronary artery disease10
  • High blood pressure10
  • Prior heart attacks10
  • Congestive heart failure10
  • Structural heart disease (valve problems or congenital defects)10
  • Obesity2
  • Overactive thyroid gland2,10
  • Prior open-heart surgery10
  • Untreated atrial flutter (another type of abnormal heart rhythm)10
  • Thyroid disease10
  • Chronic lung disease10
  • Sleep apnea10
  • Excessive alcohol or stimulant use10
  • Serious illness or infection10

[-]Treatment options to prevent stroke

  • Anticoagulants, also known as blood thinners, stop the blood from clotting and help prevent thromboembolic events such as stroke. There are two main types:
    • Vitamin K antagonists (VKAs), e.g. warfarin
    • Non-VKA oral anticoagulants (NOACs) e.g. edoxaban, rivaroxaban, dabigatran and apixaban

Adherence [-]

  • A pertinent issue with the use of anticoagulants is adherence. Following doctors' instructions to take medicines regularly can be difficult, with around half of patients failing to do so26
  • A lack of adherence interferes with the therapeutic benefits of medications, leading to increases in mortality risk and health costs27,28
    • In Europe alone, non-adherence to treatment costs governments an estimated €125 billion and contributes to the premature deaths of nearly 200,000 Europeans a year26

 

Hear Professor John Camm talk about AF and stroke risk

Professor John Camm, Professor of Clinical Cardiology, St. George's, University of London, and Professor of Cardiology, Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Trudie Lobban MBE discusses the importance of taking your pulse

Trudie Lobban MBE, Founder and CEO of the Arrythmia Alliance, STARS and the AF Association

Key Statistics

Men have a 50% higher risk of recurrent VTE than women19

Key Statistics

Those aged 60 and over are at an increased risk of developing VTE,19 with prevalence increasing nearly 90 fold from <15 to >80 years of age21

Key Statistics

The risk of developing VTE increases by 10.2% for every additional ten cigarettes per day smoked22

Smoking one pack of cigarettes per day for 40 years leads to a 26.7% higher risk of developing VTE compared to never smoking22

Key Statistics

Medical conditions associated with VTE include:23

  • Cancer
  • Heart and lung disease
  • Infectious diseases like hepatitis
  • Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis

 

Risk factors for VTE include:20

  • Surgery
  • Hospitalisation
  • Extended periods of immobility
  • Cancer/chemotherapy
  • Personal or family history of thrombosis
  • Use of estrogen-based medication
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy or recent birth
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking

[-]Treatment options to prevent thrombosis

  • Anticoagulants, also known as blood thinners, stop the blood from clotting and help prevent thromboembolic events such as stroke. There are three main types:
    • Heparins, including unfractionated heparin and low molecular weight heparins
    • Vitamin K antagonists (VKAs), e.g. warfarin
    • Non-VKA oral anticoagulants (NOACs) e.g. edoxaban, rivaroxaban, dabigatran and apixaban

Adherence [-]

  • A pertinent issue with the use of anticoagulants is adherence. Following doctors' instructions to take medicines regularly can be difficult, with around half of patients failing to do so26
  • A lack of adherence interferes with the therapeutic benefits of medications, leading to increases in mortality risk and health costs27,28
    • In Europe alone, non-adherence to treatment costs governments an estimated €125 billion and contributes to the premature deaths of nearly 200,000 Europeans a year26

 

Dr Alexander Cohen explains the signs and symptoms of VTE

Dr Alexander Cohen, Consultant Physician and Epidemiologist, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, London, United Kingdom

Professor Harry Büller discusses VTE risk assessment

Professor Harry Büller, Professor of Internal Medicine, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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