Study: Health Care Providers Should Listen to Patients on Heart Rhythm Disorder Treatment

Athletes and endurance athletes are at an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.

Health care providers should take patients’ opinions and input into account when designing a plan to treat atrial fibrillation, according to new guidelines published in the European Heart Journal.

Atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder, increases the risk of stroke by 5-fold. One in 3 Europeans will develop atrial fibrillation in their lifetime. It increases the risk of death by 2-fold in women and 1.5-fold in men, according to the study.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include shortness of breath, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and palpitations. More than 60% of patients report an impaired quality of life. Patients with atrial fibrillation are also 50% more likely to develop dementia and experience cognitive decline than the general population.

Atrial fibrillation is among the most common heart rhythm disorders during pregnancy. It is also common in those who participate in endurance sports, such as running, cycling, and cross-country skiing. Athletes have a 5-times greater risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Professional athletes should be advised that the long-lasting participation in these sports may promote the development of atrial fibrillation, according to the study.

The study authors said that the guidelines promote the Atrial fibrillation Better Care (ABC) pathways. The “A” represents anticoagulation/avoid stroke, which involves anticoagulation medication to prevent stroke in patients who are not low-risk. The “B” represents better symptom management, such as controlling heart rate and heart rhythm using medication and procedures. The “C” represents cardiovascular and comorbidity optimization, which emphasizes the management of other conditions, such as high blood pressure and lifestyle changes, including smoking cessation, improved nutrition, and excess alcohol.

"People with unhealthy lifestyles are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation…Risk can be reduced by lifestyle modification—for example, weight control, and moderate physical activity," said Tatjana Potpara, MD, chairperson of the guidelines task force and head of the Department for Intensive Arrhythmia Care, Clinical Centre of Serbia, Belgrade, in the press release.

Screening can help to identify previously undiagnosed individuals. There are more than 400 wearable activity monitors available to do so; however, caution should be taken as many of these devices and apps are not clinically validated to detect atrial fibrillation, according to the study. Screening is advised for people over the age of 65 and for those with high blood pressure.

Reference:

Heart rhythm disorders are best managed when patients are listened to (Press release) Sophia Antipolis, France August 29, 2020, EurekAlert! Accessed August 31, 2020