September 2009 is Atrial Fibrillation Month
August 26, 2009 5:21 AM CT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mellanie True Hills at 940-466-9898 or www.stopafib.org/contact.cfm
September 2009 is Atrial Fibrillation Month
StopAfib.org patient resource raises awareness of expensive and life-threatening irregular heartbeat
Dallas, TX (August 2009) — Mellanie True Hills knows personally the toll that atrial fibrillation takes. Just two years ago, with a sense of urgency about atrial fibrillation (afib) that only a survivor can possess, she designated September as Atrial Fibrillation Month.
After surviving blood clots and a near-stroke during her first afib episode, she lived in constant fear that the next one would bring on a deadly stroke. Once cured surgically of this irregular heartbeat, she couldn’t stand on the sidelines and watch others suffer so she started StopAfib.org, a non-profit resource for those living the nightmare of atrial fibrillation. Since afib frequently isn’t diagnosed until after a stroke, or two, and identifying the problem can be a multi-year process, she knew that she had to act quickly to raise awareness.
As we at StopAfib.org mark our third year of celebrating Atrial Fibrillation Month, we know that so much progress has been made in raising awareness of this potentially life-threatening irregular heartbeat, but so much more must be done. We imagine a world where there are no deadly or disabling strokes. A world where atrial fibrillation no longer bankrupts families due to lost jobs, crushing medical bills, and the inability to get and keep insurance. A world where the cost of atrial fibrillation and strokes no longer threatens health systems and economies.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is a misfiring of the electrical signals of the heart that is characterized by heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, and typically a fast heart rate. Afib comes on with little or no warning, and for no apparent reason, and can feel like having a flopping fish in the chest as the heart races and jumps uncontrollably.
According to the Mayo Clinic, more than five million Americans now suffer from atrial fibrillation, and by 2050 at least 16 million Americans will have afib as it overtakes aging Baby Boomers.
Once considered benign, this cardiac arrhythmia can double the risk of death and increase the risk of stroke five-fold. Afib is known to cause at least 15–20 percent of all strokes, and up to one-third of strokes of indeterminate origin are thought to be caused by atrial fibrillation. Stroke is the third most common cause of death in America and the number one cause of permanent disability.
Afib is associated with other chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, heart failure, and thyroid disease. Afib also decreases the amount of oxygen going to the brain and thus can lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Those with afib often experience a very poor quality of life.
Impact of Afib
Afib means lost productivity and health care costs that are spiraling out of control. It is saddling the United States with the huge economic burden of a disease with medical costs five times higher per patient than for those without afib. Afib costs Medicare approximately $16 billion annually, and that doesn’t include the cost of disability. The economic burden is expected to grow with the aging of the Baby Boom generation.
Atrial fibrillation typically takes several years to identify and diagnose, during which time patients may be at significant risk of a stroke. Awareness and timely diagnosis and treatment can dramatically impact the billions of dollars spent annually on emergency room visits and hospitalizations, not to mention the incredible cost of treating strokes.
What Can Be Done?
Easing the financial burden of afib on patients, families, companies, and society involves having the right information, the right provider, and the right care.
Right information: By raising awareness, providing the latest news and information, and encouraging understanding and involvement, StopAfib.org helps patients and families to proactively manage afib and to alert doctors to issues that can thus head off or prevent strokes and hospitalization.
Right provider: Because afib is complex, progressive, and difficult to treat, afib patients must have timely access to physicians that specialize in diseases of the heart, especially the heart’s electrical system. Maintaining access for afib patients to physician specialists will be critical as national health care reform legislation progresses.
Right care: Proper and consistent care can decrease the human and financial toll. Many afib patients may not be receiving appropriate treatment with the right set of guidelines to minimize their risk of stroke. Every day afib patients encounter serious, and even deadly, issues caused by the wrong combinations of drugs. The right care can reduce emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and most of all, strokes and death, and thus help reign in the out-of-control cost of caring for afib patients.
As growing numbers of boomers with afib overtax our medical systems and contribute to ballooning Medicare costs, with the right information, the right provider, and the right care, the risk of a costly Medicare meltdown may be averted.
To meet these needs of providing the right information, the right provider, and the right care, StopAfib.org is dedicated to:
- raising awareness of afib so that it gets diagnosed and treated early
- educating patients about their disease and facilitating sharing of patient experiences to improve quality of life and quality of care
- helping patients find specialized care to manage their disease
- supporting communications and partnerships between patients and their doctors, and
- wiping out afib-related strokes
How Can We Get There?
StopAfib.org is committed to raising awareness of atrial fibrillation and has partnered in the following awareness initiatives:
To Officially Designate September as National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month in the United States.
StopAfib.org first celebrated Atrial Fibrillation Month in September of 2007 and registered it in Chase’s Calendar of Events, the international event register. In the past two years, atrial fibrillation has been raised in the public consciousness. Earlier this year, it was further elevated on the national health policy agenda when the Institute of Medicine named atrial fibrillation as an initial national priority for upcoming Comparative Effectiveness Research. StopAfib.org has joined several patient and medical organizations in asking Congress to pass a resolution that would officially designate September as National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month in the United States.
The resolution has been introduced in the House of Representatives (H.Res. 255) by Reps. C.A. Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Kay Granger (R-TX), and in the Senate (S. Res. 220) by Sens. Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME). To secure passage of the resolutions in September, calls and emails to Congress are needed. Afib patients, their families, and their friends are encouraged to contact their representative and senators and ask them to cosponsor H. Res. 255 or S. Res. 220 officially designating September as National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month. To reach them, go to http://www.senate.gov or http://www.house.gov to identify their contact info, or call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or 1-800-828-0498 and ask to be connected to their office.
AF StatTM: A Call to Action for Atrial Fibrillation
StopAfib.org has joined together with an ever-widening group of organizations to focus on raising afib awareness. On May 18, 2009, 24 organizations launched AF StatTM: A Call to Action for Atrial Fibrillation. This first-of-its-kind, national initiative aims to elevate understanding, diagnosis and management of atrial fibrillation among all those affected by this serious and increasingly prevalent cardiovascular disease.
StopAfib.org has been a key contributor in AF Stat along with medical lead Dr. Eric Prystowsky, the National Forum on Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, the Heart Rhythm Society, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association. Former Senator Bill Frist, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon, has joined the AF Stat efforts as health policy advisor. Legendary NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, former coach and general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, has also joined the effort as an afib patient. For more information, see:
Afib is not just a U.S. problem, so StopAfib.org is also engaged in various projects around the globe to raise awareness of afib.
StopAfib.org YouTube Channel To Bring Doctors to Patients
For Atrial Fibrillation Month, StopAfib.org is introducing a newly-updated YouTube channel. It features video interviews for patients with some of the world’s leading atrial fibrillation specialists sharing the latest findings that they presented at important afib medical conferences. In these videos, electrophysiologists and surgeons talk about the latest afib treatments and directions as well as what patients need to know about afib in partnering with their doctors.
About Atrial Fibrillation Month Events
About StopAfib.org and the Atrial Fibrillation Blog
As an atrial fibrillation survivor, Mellanie True Hills couldn’t just stand on the sidelines and watch others suffer from the huge physical, emotional, and financial toll of afib on patients and their families so she created StopAfib.org for patients by patients.
StopAfib.org and the companion Atrial Fibrillation Blog provide information about symptoms, causes, risks, and treatments, atrial fibrillation resources, the latest atrial fibrillation news and videos, tools to stimulate discussions, and a newsletter of what’s new in atrial fibrillation information.
The Atrial Fibrillation Services Locator is one of the site’s most popular destinations and features hospitals, arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation centers, electrophysiologists, cardiologists, and surgeons that specialize in treating atrial fibrillation patients.
Now the most visited U.S. arrhythmia-related website on the Internet and among the top heart disease sites, StopAfib.org has received the HON Code Certification from the Health on the Net Foundation signifying a site that provides credible and trustworthy health and medical information. The goal of StopAfib.org is to be one of the most trusted communities for atrial fibrillation patients.
About Mellanie True Hills
Mellanie True Hills is a heart health expert, speaker, and author of the award-winning book, A Woman’s Guide to Saving Her Own Life: The HEART Program for Health and Longevity. In 2003, she had a brush with death in emergency heart surgery followed seven months later by a near-stroke from atrial fibrillation. Life with atrial fibrillation was paralyzing and terrifying. For more information, see Mellanie’s afib experience.
Mellanie and StopAfib.org have been featured by USA Weekend, More, Success, FOXBusiness.com, Better Homes & Gardens, Heart-Healthy Living, Newsweek, and others.
For more information, contact Mellanie True Hills at 940-466-9898 or Contact Us