Survey shows most Canadians unaware of atrial fibrillation;
a heart condition with serious consequences
MONTREAL, May 25 /CNW/ - Results of a recent Leger Marketing survey
announced today reveal that the majority of Canadians do not recognize that
atrial fibrillation is a heart-related illness. On an unaided basis, only two
per cent of the 4,274 respondents polled were able to link this condition to
heart disease. When shown or read a list of heart diseases, fewer than half of
the respondents (40 per cent) were able to make the link, even though atrial
fibrillation affects nearly a quarter of a million Canadians who could
potentially end up in hospital with strokes, congestive heart failure and
other heart-related problems. The results were similar in Atlantic Canada,
with three per cent making the link on an unaided basis and 42 per cent making
the link on an aided basis.
While awareness of this condition is low, 60 per cent of respondents from
Atlantic Canada, compared to 54 per cent nationally, reported having symptoms
that could be associated with atrial fibrillation. This is particularly
relevant for those 65 and over, the population at highest risk. In the survey,
26 per cent of respondents from Atlantic Canada mentioned having experienced a
"racing, uncomfortable, irregular heart beat" while another 13 per cent
reported experiencing a "flopping" feeling in the chest.
"It's important that we raise public awareness about this issue because
atrial fibrillation is a common condition that is likely to affect more and
more baby-boomers who will be entering their sixties and seventies soon," says
Dr. Nicholas Giacomantonio, Cardiologist, QEII Health Sciences Centre in
Halifax, who points out that atrial fibrillation currently affects six per
cent of those over 65. "If left unchecked, it can have serious heart health
consequences, the most important of which is stroke," he said.
Recognizing the risk factors
In addition to age, risk factors for atrial fibrillation, an abnormal
heart rhythm in which the upper chambers of the heart beat in a wildly erratic
manner, include disease of heart valves, heart failure, high blood pressure
and excess weight. While heart valve disease and heart failure are less common
in the general population, excess weight and high blood pressure are
prevalent. In the survey, 29 per cent reported they were overweight and 21 per
cent reported having high blood pressure. In Atlantic Canada, the percentages
were similar at 29 per cent and 24 per cent respectively. While Dr.
Giacomantonio explains that having these risk factors does not automatically
mean that people will develop atrial fibrillation, he does state that the
chances of developing this condition increase exponentially with each passing
"Canadians should not hesitate to speak with their physician about their
symptoms or if they have a medical history that puts them at increased risk",
Recognizing the symptoms
Although 42 per cent of respondents from Atlantic Canada (40 per cent
nationally) initially indicated an awareness of atrial fibrillation, once the
condition was described to them, more than half (53 per cent compared with 54
per cent nationally) could not name any symptoms associated with it. On an
unaided basis, only four per cent of the respondents (five per cent
nationally) who reported they were aware of atrial fibrillation mentioned
heart palpitations, even though this is the most common symptom associated
with this condition. When aided, however, 64 per cent of this group (65 per
cent nationally) identified a "racing, uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat",
while another 40 per cent (38 per cent nationally) identified a 'flopping'
feeling in the chest.
Quality of life out of sync
In addition to the serious heart health consequences that may result from
having atrial fibrillation, there are also quality of life issues that can
have an effect on a patient's daily life. For those who experience many of the
symptoms of atrial fibrillation - including dizziness and chest pain -
seemingly simple tasks can become nearly impossible.
Of the 115 Canadians who reported that they had been diagnosed with
atrial fibrillation, close to half (46 per cent) stated that this condition
has a negative impact on their daily activities.
As the survey reveals, atrial fibrillation's negative impact can also be
felt by family members who can find themselves in a caregiver role. Of the 524
Canadians who reported that a family member had been diagnosed with atrial
fibrillation, more than half (56 per cent) said the condition negatively
impacted their loved ones' daily activities, indicating they may be sharing in
the distress experienced by those who have debilitating symptoms.
Keep the rhythm: Talk to your doctor
While the majority of respondents from Atlantic Canada (87 per cent
compared with 83 per cent nationally) say their family physician would be
their number one source for information on atrial fibrillation, only 56 per
cent of undiagnosed respondents who had experienced one or more symptoms
associated with this condition actually spoke with their family doctor about
their symptoms. The majority of those who did report their symptoms to their
doctor said that this led to an electrocardiogram, the most common diagnostic
test for atrial fibrillation.
Beyond health care professionals, with family physicians being a clear
favourite (87 per cent), respondents from Atlantic Canada reported that they
would also seek information about atrial fibrillation from other channels. Six
in 10 said they would consult some form of media, the most popular choice
being the Internet (55 per cent).
According to Heart & Stroke, the most important thing individuals can do
is to speak to their healthcare professional if they believe they may be at
risk. They can also consult their web site at www.heartandstroke.ca for more
information on this condition.
About atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of arrhythmia that can cause
many symptoms including heart palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue,
and raise the risk for more serious heart problems. It increases the risk of
mortality two-fold, the risk of heart failure by two to three-fold, and the
risk of stroke by up to five-fold. It is estimated that up to 15 per cent of
all strokes are due to atrial fibrillation. The condition is more frequent in
men than in women across all age groups.
About the survey
The survey, commissioned by sanofi-aventis Canada Inc., was conducted by
Leger Marketing using a hybrid approach of both telephone and online
interviews. A total of 4,274 adults were polled: 2,743 completed the online
survey using Leger Marketing's Web panel while another 1,531 answered the
telephone survey. With a sample of this size, results are considered accurate
to within +/-1.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been
had the entire adult population been polled. The margin of error is higher for
specific sub-groups within the survey population. These data are weighted to
ensure that the sample's age/sex composition reflects that of the actual adult
population in each city according to Census data.
Sanofi-aventis, a leading global pharmaceutical company, discovers,
develops and distributes therapeutic solutions to improve the lives of
everyone. Sanofi-aventis is listed in Paris (EURONEXT : SAN) and in New York
(NYSE : SNY).
Sanofi-aventis is represented in Canada by the pharmaceutical company
sanofi-aventis Canada Inc., based in Laval, Quebec, and by the vaccines
company Sanofi Pasteur Limited, based in Toronto, Ontario. Together they
employ more than 2,000 people and are leaders in Canada's biopharmaceutical
sector, a critical research-based industry that generates jobs, business and
opportunity throughout the country.
For further information:
For further information: Valerie Cameron, MS&L, (416) 847-1320; Dave
Scholz, Vice-President, Leger Marketing, (416) 815-0330