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Dangerous heart rhythm disorder now affects more than a million, with over 90,000 in the West Midlands

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: January 17, 2014

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MORE than a million people in the UK now live with atrial fibrillation (AF) (1), including 91,052 in the West Midlands. AF is a dangerous heart rhythm disorder that increases the risk of stroke five-fold, according to new figures from the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The data, released as part of the BHF’s Ramp up the Red fundraising campaign for heart research, shows the UK has for the first time topped the million mark for the number of people living with the heart rhythm disorder.

Atrial fibrillation causes an irregular, sometimes fast pulse because electrical impulses controlling the heart’s natural rhythm lose coordination. The condition is responsible for over 2,000 strokes a year in the West Midlands (2).

Over the past five years, the number of people with atrial fibrillation has rocketed by nearly 20% with over 1 million now diagnosed with the condition.

High blood pressure, heart valve disease and binge drinking are among the causes, which can leave sufferers experiencing palpitations, and feeling faint and breathless. However, some people with the condition have no symptoms at all. If left untreated, atrial fibrillation can significantly increase the risk of a blood clot forming inside the chambers of the heart, which increase the risk of stroke five-fold.

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the BHF, said: “The real danger with atrial fibrillation is that some people don’t realise they have it. You can be going about your daily routine oblivious to the fact you’re five times more likely to have a devastating stroke.

“Checking that your pulse is regular is a simple way of seeing if you’re at risk. But only through research can we tackle this dangerous disorder and prevent its devastating consequences. That’s why we’re encouraging people in the West Midlands to take part in our Ramp up the Red campaign to raise money for life-saving research.”

The rising figure is in part down to the UK’s ageing population. Drinking excess alcohol including binge drinking - is another risk factor that can increase your chance of developing atrial fibrillation over time.

The BHF is the UK’s biggest funder of research into heart and circulatory diseases, such as heart attack and stroke. Both can occur because of blockages in the arteries.

BHF is urging you to go as red as your dare and organise a Ramp up the Red party with friends, families and colleagues on February 7 to raise vital funds for life-saving heart research.

Ramp up the Red this February and help the BHF continue its fight for every heartbeat. To order your FREE fundraising pack, visit bhf.org.uk/red or call 0800 0316 316 to sign up today.

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