Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia warns too many are in the dark about atrial fibrillation, a serious heart condition that can lead to the most debilitating type of stroke
VANCOUVER, Jan. 19, 2012 /CNW/ - Startling new results from a Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia survey, conducted by Leger Marketing, show 2 in 5 (37 per cent) people in BC would rather lose a limb than survive a stroke and more than 1 in 4 (27 per cent) say surviving a stroke would be worse than dying. And while British Columbians are fearful of the consequences of a stroke, the majority aren't familiar with the basic facts of atrial fibrillation (AF) - a common and serious heart condition that can lead to the most severe and debilitating type of stroke.1 What's more, three-quarters (75 per cent) falsely believe that AF is tied to an increased risk of heart attack while only 47 per cent understand its connection to stroke.1
There are approximately 48,000 British Columbians living with AF, which causes the heart to beat irregularly. After the age of 55, the incidence of AF doubles with each decade of life.2 People with AF are three to five times more at risk of having a stroke than those without AF and they are twice as likely to die from one.2 For those who survive the stroke, the disabilities can be significant - paralysis, loss of speech and understanding and effects on the memory, thought and emotional processes.
"Many stroke survivors go on to have successful and enjoyable lives. They learn to make the most of the abilities they have. However, we still need to do everything we can to prevent strokes," says Tim Readman, Executive Director of the Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia. "To me, the biggest concern is the lack of awareness about atrial fibrillation because this means people aren't protecting themselves. The effects of a stroke can be physically and financially debilitating. People need to be active participants in their own health, which means being aware of their risk if they have AF, and taking the necessary precautions to prevent stroke."
Jack Corstanje understands how easy it is to live with AF and not know it. Ten years ago, he suffered from an AF-related stroke after under-going open-heart surgery.
"I could feel that my heartbeat was irregular, but I didn't know I had atrial fibrillation until I suffered the stroke six weeks after my surgery. My recovery process was long and painful. It took five years to gain back the life I had before the stroke, but with the support of my family and medical team, I am able to walk and drive again," says Corstanje. "I feel incredibly lucky to have recovered and I encourage anyone who thinks they may have atrial fibrillation to discuss the condition with their doctor."
The survey also revealed that 68 per cent of British Columbians do not know how to prevent an AF-related stroke.1 To help bridge that knowledge gap and raise awareness of AF, a new website has been developed: www.StrokeAndAF.ca Visitors can not only learn the facts about AF, but they can also find questions to ask their doctor, tips on living with AF and suggestions for caregivers.
"AF-related strokes cause a multitude of negative outcomes - to patients, their families, the health care system and the community. By taking preventative steps, we can stop many of those strokes from happening in the first place and eliminate the burden they cause," says Dr. Philip Teal, Head of the Stroke Prevention Clinic at Vancouver General Hospital and Professor of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia. "There is clearly a massive gap in knowledge related to this condition, which is why it's important to educate people about what AF is, how common it is and the consequences of having an AF-related stroke."
According to the survey, British Columbians have an appreciation for the impact a severe stroke could potentially have on their lives. In fact, 7 in 10 fear losing their independence due to stroke and the same amount fear losing their speech / ability to communicate. Other fears British Columbians have include losing their mobility (66 per cent), not fully recovering from a stroke (64 per cent) and being a burden on their family (62 per cent).1
"Our goal is to get more people to take action and protect themselves from stroke, and the most important first step in doing this is to raise awareness about atrial fibrillation," says Readman.
About the Survey
The online survey was conducted by Leger Marketing between October 24 and 26, 2011, with a sample size of 1,003 British Columbians 18+ years of age. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-3.1%, 19 times out of 20.
About Stroke in Canada
In Canada, stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of death2 with up to 15 per cent of strokes being caused by AF.2 The health care costs for patients in the first six months after a stroke totals more than $2.5 billion a year, with direct and indirect costs for each patient averaging $50,000 in the first six months following a stroke.3 People with non-disabling strokes spend up to $24,000 during the first six months and the costs for families can increase to over $100,000 for the most severely affected.4 Examples of stroke-related expenses to families include those associated with care giving, transportation and lost income.
About Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia
The Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia is committed to assisting stroke survivors and their caregivers throughout British Columbia to promote their independence and improve their overall quality of life. This is done through a variety of community support programs and services, and public education campaigns executed by the thirty-seven regional Stroke Recovery Branches across the province.
1 Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.2009 Stroke Report Card
2 Canadian Stroke Network. http://www.canadianstrokenetwork.ca/index.php/about/about-stroke/stroke-101/ (Accessed July 5, 2010)
3 http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ikIQLcMWJtE&b=6074245&ct=8425975 (Accessed October 19, 2010)
4 Mittmann N, Seung SJ, Sharma M, and the BURST study investigators. Impact of disability status on ischaemic stroke costs. Presented at the 2010 International Stroke Congress, Feb 25 2010, San Antonio, TX. Poster P538; Stroke; 41;4:e390.
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