Despite Fearing the Loss of Independence, the Majority of People Don’t Know How Best to Reduce Stroke Risk

LONDON, Oct. 29, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Loss of the ability to self-care and live independently are the most feared social-related outcomes of a stroke,[a] a survey of seven European countries reveals today on World Stroke Day. Yet only one in a hundred respondents surveyed were able to correctly identify all four main ways to reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation (AF)-related stroke,[1] which account for a one in six strokes.[2] AF-related stroke is caused by blood clots and is a type of ischaemic stroke, the most common type of stroke.[3]


The Ipsos MORI survey of 3,307 individuals aged 40 or over in the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal and Ireland looked at attitudes and awareness of AF: a common condition that affects 70 million people globally[4] and causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate.

Those affected by AF are five times more likely than the general population to have an ischaemic stroke[5] because an irregular heart beat can allow blood clots to form in the heart. These can then be carried to the brain, blocking blood flow and causing an ischaemic stroke. AF-related strokes tend to be more severe than other types of ischaemic stroke and can devastate not only a patient’s quality of life, but also that of their family and carers.[6] Worryingly, many people with AF do not realise that, as well as treating their AF symptoms, they need to act to lower their stroke risk.[7]

In the survey, respondents were asked about ways that patients with AF can help reduce their risk of an AF-related stroke.[b] When prompted, just over half of those surveyed (52%) were aware that maintaining a healthy diet could help alleviate the risk of AF-related stroke, while exercise was correctly identified by just under half of those surveyed (46%).[1] However, the results also reveal:

  • 85 per cent of respondents surveyed did not know that an anticoagulant is an option to help reduce the risk of AF-related stroke)[1] – despite the fact that they can prevent up to 70 per cent of AF-related strokes.[8],[9],[10],[11]
  • Around two thirds (68%) of respondents surveyed did not know that blood pressure treatment can help reduce their AF-related stroke risk.[1]
  • 99 per cent of respondents surveyed could not identify all four correct ways of reducing AF-related stroke risk, without any incorrect answers. These correct answers were eating a healthy diet, exercising, taking prescribed anticoagulants and blood pressure treatments.[1]

Mellanie True Hills, founder and CEO of, an AF patient organisation, and co-chair of the Sign Against Stroke in Atrial Fibrillation Task Force said: "It is important for people who have been diagnosed with AF to see their healthcare professionals regularly to check their personal AF stroke risk. Over time a person’s AF risk factors can change. While lifestyle choices are fundamental to managing AF, the use of anticoagulation, including consideration of new options, is critical for effective prevention of AF-related strokes in those at risk."

The results of this survey highlight the need for people to be aware of the link between AF and stroke and to take action on reducing their stroke risk. Sign Against Stroke in Atrial Fibrillation is a global campaign to raise awareness of AF and its relationship with stroke. In the past year, around 200,000 people have engaged with Sign Against Stroke in Atrial Fibrillation by signing the Global AF Patient Charter, a global call to action to drive improvements in AF diagnosis and care, in order to prevent AF-related strokes. Sign Against Stroke in Atrial Fibrillation has now rallied 697,468 people to join the unified voice supporting improved care and treatment of individuals living with AF.


a) Social outcomes listed were inability to work, inability to self-care and live independently, being a burden on my family, inability to pay for my own care and inability to provide care for my family
b) Ways to reduce the risk of AF-related stroke listed were healthy diet, exercise, blood pressure treatment, cholesterol lowering treatment, anticoagulant treatment, antibiotic treatment and heart surgery

Notes to editors 

About AF and its link with stroke 

AF is the most common heart rhythm disorder worldwide and puts those affected at a higher risk of stroke.[12],[13] AF becomes more prevalent with age,[12] with the over 40s have a one in four chance of developing AF.[2] The symptoms of AF include:

  • Irregular heart beat
  • Racing or sudden pounding of the heart
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

The majority of AF-related strokes can be prevented with appropriate healthcare management.

About Sign Against Stroke in Atrial Fibrillation  and the AF Patient Charter 

In a global call to action, 101 patient organisations, medical and other non-governmental organisations from around the world have endorsed the Charter, asking the public, healthcare professionals and policy makers to drive change in AF diagnosis and care, preventing AF-related strokes. The goal of Sign Against Stroke in Atrial Fibrillation is to gather 1.7 million signatures in support of the Charter – one for each of the estimated number of grandparents, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles killed or disabled by AF-related strokes every year – and provide those signatures to healthcare decision makers in countries across the world. Demonstrating strong support behind the Charter recommendations will help put AF and AF-related stroke prevention at the forefront of national health agendas.

The Global AF Patient Charter was developed by a Steering Committee comprised of representatives from patient organisations, including AntiCoagulation Europe, Arrhythmia Alliance, Atrial Fibrillation Association, Irish Heart Foundation, and Stroke Alliance for Europe, in collaboration with 39 founding patient organisations from 20 countries. A full list of collaborating organisations is available on the website,

People can learn about AF and stroke and read and sign the Charter, which is available in 22 languages, on the Campaign website All signatures contribute to driving action to prevent AF-related strokes and improving future outcomes and quality of life of people diagnosed with AF.

Bayer HealthCare has proudly supported the Global AF Patient Charter and Sign Against Stroke in Atrial Fibrillation Campaign since its creation in 2011 and remains committed to working together with all key stakeholders involved to help improve AF patient outcomes.

About Ipsos MORI Survey      

On behalf of Bayer Healthcare, Ipsos MORI interviewed 3,307 adults aged 40+ across seven Western European countries – UK (501), Germany (500), Spain (500), Italy (502), France (500), Portugal (400), Ireland (404). Interviews were conducted by telephone (CATI: Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews) between 3rd -17th September 2012.

Quota controls were set upon the interviews to the known population profile of this audience (40+ years of age) for age, sex and region. Population data sources: Eurostat, 2011 and NRS July 2011-June 2012 (UK); Eurostat, 2011 (Germany); Eurostat, 2011 (Spain); Istat (national statistic office), 2011 (Italy); Eurostat, 2011; (France); INE, Estimativas Anuais da População Residente. National Statistics Institute. 2010 Annual estimation of resident Population, 2011 (Portugal); Eurostat, 2011 (Ireland).

UK data have been weighted in accordance to publically available statistics.

In Spain, "stroke" was translated "apoplejia" in the local version of the questionnaire for question 8.


1. Ipsos MORI. Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke Awareness Survey. 2012.
2. Lloyd-Jones DM et al. Circulation 2004;110:1042-6.
3. Stroke 101: Fast facts on stroke. National Stroke Association. Last accessed October 2014.
4. Tackling global AF stroke risk. Atrial Fibrillation Association . Last accessed October 2014.
5. Marini C et al. Stroke 2005;36:1115-9.
6. Wolfe CD. Br Med Bull 2000;56:275-86.
7. Atrial Fibrillation Association  and AntiCoagulation Europe. The AF Report, Atrial fibrillation: Preventing a stroke crisis . Last accessed October 2014.
8. Patel MR et al. N Engl J Med 2011;365:883-91.
9. Connolly SJ et al. N Engl J Med 2009;361:1139-51.
10. Granger CB et al. N Engl J Med 2011;365:981-92.
11. Hart RG et al. Ann Intern Med 2007;146:857-867.
12. Kannel WB et al. Med Clin North Am 2008;92:17-40.
13. Atrial Fibrillation Fact Sheet, National Heart Blood and Lung Institute Diseases and Conditions Index, October 2009. . Last accessed October 2014.

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