11 Afib Risk Factors Pharmacists Should Know

DECEMBER 29, 2015
Meghan Ross, Senior Associate Editor
Atrial fibrillation can be a tricky condition because patients may not know that they have it, as they may not exhibit any symptoms.

Without any knowledge of their arrhythmia, patients with atrial fibrillation are unaware of their risk for clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.

Even those who know they have atrial fibrillation may not recognize how serious the condition is.

One survey conducted in 2009 found that only about one-third of patients with atrial fibrillation thought it was very or extremely serious. The survey also found that health care professionals were twice as likely as patients to recognize the health consequences of atrial fibrillation. 

One way pharmacists can help patients is by educating them on what atrial fibrillation is and what can put a patient at risk for developing the condition.  

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 risk factors for atrial fibrillation are:

1.     Advanced age

2.     High blood pressure

3.     Obesity

4.     European ancestry

5.     Diabetes

6.     Heart failure

7.     Ischemic heart disease

8.     Hyperthyroidism

9.     Chronic kidney disease

10.  Heavy alcohol use

11.  Enlargement of the chambers on the left side of the heart

Not all of these risk factors are modifiable, but pharmacists can play a role in monitoring and correcting the ones that are.

For example, pharmacists have proven to be useful resources for improving hypertension. They can maintain blood pressure levels and intervene by speaking with patients’ prescribers if they believe a change in medication or dose is needed.

In order to prevent prediabetes from progressing to diabetes, pharmacists can emphasize that patients have good nutrition and get enough sleep and exercise. Patients should also strive to reduce stress, as this can also cause prediabetes to transition into diabetes.

In one study, personalized health coaching helped patients improve their health dramatically. About half of the 107 patients with prediabetes saw normal blood glucose levels after 6 months of attending health coaching sessions. They also had improvements in blood pressure, fasting insulin, perceived stress levels, and fatigue.

Some easy ways to encourage sleep and reduce stress include 10-minute tension tamers and alarms to go to bed early.

Pharmacists can also provide weight-loss counseling for obese patients, who are at risk for atrial fibrillation.

Jared Bunch, MD, medical director of heart rhythm services for the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, recently told Pharmacy Times that pharmacists can advise patients to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.

Exercising between 30 to 60 minutes a day, standing more, and taking the stairs can also help patients lose weight.

Dr. Bunch’s study found that patients who lost weight but gained it back had the highest risk for atrial fibrillation recurrence, so pharmacists should emphasize to patients that it is important to keep the pounds off.

In addition, pharmacists can also provide education about alcoholism if patients raise concerns about themselves or a loved one.

The 4 key symptoms of alcoholism are cravings, loss of control, physical dependence, and tolerance.

Around 2.7 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, according to the American Heart Association.
 
 


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