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Irregular Heartbeat can be treated with Blood Thinners

Update Date: Feb 25, 2014 02:31 PM EST

The American Academy of Neurology (ANN) has updated its guidelines regarding heart health. The latest guidelines state that for people with an irregular heartbeat, taking blood thinners could reduce their risk of stroke. The experts stressed that this guideline is very important for people with an irregular heartbeat who have already suffered a stroke or mini-stroke.

"The World Health Organization has determined that atrial fibrillation is nearing epidemic proportions, affecting 0.5 percent of the population worldwide," said lead author Antonio Culebras, MD, of SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology in a press release.

According to the academy, irregular heartbeat, medically known as atrial fibrillation, is tied to stroke risk because this condition causes the blood in the heart's upper chambers to remain stationary, which can lead to the formation of clots. The clots can then move out of the heart and travel up to the brain where a stroke could occur. The ANN reports that roughly five percent of people with atrial fibrillation have a high risk of suffering from a stroke if their condition is left untreated.

In the updated guidelines, the ANN recommends blood thinners, also known as anticoagulants, for people with atrial fibrillation because these types of medication have been known to be very effective in preventing stroke. Since 1998, which was when the last set of guidelines were published, there have been new blood thinners such as dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto) and apixaban (Eliquis), which are more effective than other kinds of blood thinners. The latest guidelines are updated to include these drug options.

"Of course, doctors will need to consider the individual patient's situation in making a decision whether or not to use anticoagulants, and which one to use, as the risks and benefits can vary for each person," Dr. Culebras said reported by WebMD.

Since blood thinners have been known to cause bleeding, the agency recommends patients to take them under strict medical supervision. The study was published in Neurology.

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