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Rob Waddell’s condition common

Explanation of Rob Waddell's irregular heartbeat - dangerous if left unmanaged.

Rob Waddell’s condition common, but needs management

Rob Waddell’s heart condition – Atrial Fibrillation (AF) – is fairly common amongst New Zealanders, but shouldn’t be left unchecked by medical practitioners, said Stroke Foundation Medical Adviser, Dr John Fink.

In Atrial Fibrillation, the heartbeat is irregular and may be very fast because the normal ‘timer’ in the heart does not work properly. It is one of the most common abnormal heart rhythm disorders in adults, especially amongst older people. About one in every 100 New Zealanders have it. While AF is not generally life-threatening, it can cause serious problems such as stroke or heart failure if it is not managed well, said Dr Fink.

“The medical term can sound worrying to people, but the medical management of it can be quite straightforward. The key thing is, if you suspect you may have an irregular heart beat – get it checked. Once you have it diagnosed, you can usually continue to enjoy a normal and active lifestyle. Once it is managed properly, AF seldom causes serious or life-threatening problems.”

The danger is when it is left undiagnosed and untreated. Left unchecked by a GP, AF can contribute to a stroke because of blood clots formed in the atria of the heart resulting from sluggish blood flow. These clots can then break off and block blood supply to part of the brain.

About 8000 people a year have a stroke in New Zealand. Atrial fibrillation is thought to account for one in every five strokes in those over 60 years./.

Notes to Editor:

1. The main treatment to reduce risk of stroke for people with AF is a blood-thinning medication called warfarin. Often a GP will also refer someone found to have AF to a heart specialist (cardiologist) for further evaluation to determine if any other treatment is needed. But for most people, treatment to try and make the heart-beat regular again is not needed, and the most important thing is to take warfarin to prevent stroke.

2. A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain, causing brain cell damage. Basically, it is a brain attack.

3. Stroke is the second single largest killer in New Zealand (more than 2000 people every year).

4. Stroke is the major cause of adult disability in New Zealand.

5. Every day, 22 New Zealanders have a stroke.

6. The Stroke Foundation is New Zealand’s only organisation solely dedicated to reducing the risks of stroke, and improving outcomes for the stroke-affected.

Stroke Foundation: “Reducing risks – improving outcomes”.


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