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Health Risks of Atrial Fibrillation
Despite optimal medical treatment, atrial fibrillation can have serious health consequences. The three main complications of AF are stroke, heart failure and impaired quality of life.
The presence of AF increases the risk of ischemic stroke five-fold and may be responsible for as many as 15 to 20% of all strokes. In addition, patients with AF who suffer from a stroke are significantly more disabled than patients who also suffer from a stroke but don't have AF.
- Heart Failure
Chronic heart failure and atrial fibrillation each affect 1 to 2% of the population. The prevalence of both rises steeply with age. Chronic heart failure may affect more than 50% of patients with atrial fibrillation. This significantly impairs both the quality of life and long-term survival when compared with patients in sinus rhythm.
- Quality of Life
The psychological burden of atrial fibrillation upon patients has been unrecognized by many health providers. It is known that patients with AF tend to report higher rates of anxiety, depression and perceived lower quality of life scores. Recent investigations have found that simply controlling AF medically can improve many of these symptoms. In addition, ablation of AF with both catheter and surgical Maze and Mini Maze has been shown to improve quality of life to a greater extent than medical therapy alone.