TV Star Susan Lucci And Husband Get Serious About Stroke By Sharing Personal Experience Of Living With Atrial Fibrillation


Facing AFib™ Program Drives Awareness of Increased Risk of Stroke Associated with Condition1

Ridgefield, CT – September 23, 2010 – After an unexpected diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of irregular heart beat they had never heard of before,2 daytime TV star Susan Lucci and her husband Helmut Huber learned he is one of the estimated 2.3 million Americans living with the condition,3 which can increase the risk of stroke nearly five-fold.1 The couple, who have spent more than a decade working with their doctor to help minimize Helmut’s stroke risk, today announced they have partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., National Stroke Association and to launch a new national education program to improve awareness of AFib and its increased risk of stroke.

Atrial fibrillation is a potentially serious condition.2 The irregular heartbeat associated with AFib can cause blood to pool in the atria, which can result in the formation of clots.2 These blood clots can travel from the heart to the brain, where they can lead to a stroke.2 Strokes associated with AFib can be about twice as likely to be fatal4 or severely disabling as non-AFib-related strokes.5

“Learning you or someone you love has atrial fibrillation can be overwhelming and scary, especially when you hear about the increased risk of stroke,” said Lucci. “Thankfully our doctor reassured us that many AFib–related strokes may be preventable. Through Facing AFib, we hope to pass that message along and encourage others touched by AFib – both patients and loved ones – to get serious about stroke.”

Facing AFib is a multi-year program to educate Americans about AFib and to encourage those with the condition to take steps to help reduce their stroke risk. The program also aims to facilitate improved communication between patients and healthcare providers (HCPs) in an effort to address gaps identified through AFib STROKE (Atrial Fibrillation Survey To Reveal Opinions, Knowledge and Education gaps), a nationally representative survey6 that found 40 percent of patients with AFib do not feel they are at personal risk for stroke.6

“Though many patients don’t believe they are at risk, AFib is associated with up to 15 percent of all strokes in the U.S.” said Mellanie True Hills, founder. “We’ve joined Facing AFib to arm patients and caregivers with important information about AFib and stroke and to empower them to be proactive in their efforts to reduce stroke risk.”

To help those with AFib and their loved ones better understand personal stroke risk, the program website,, offers valuable resources including an interactive risk assessment tool and a personalized doctor discussion guide. Additionally, the website provides access to a free book packed with information as well as the opportunity to register for program updates.

National Survey Results Underscore Need for Increased Education
Results of AFib STROKE, a patient and HCP survey to assess the general awareness of, and attitudes toward, AFib also were announced today.6 The survey, which was led by a steering committee of five medical thought leaders and advocates dedicated to improving education in the AFib community,6 revealed that:

  • Only 45 percent of patients with AFib recall discussing their personal risk of stroke associated with the condition with their HCP when they were first diagnosed6
  • Less than 35 percent of patients take the initiative to ask their HCP about their personal risk of stroke6
  • Most patients (67%) report they would like more information about AFib6

“These survey findings show there is a definite need for more education and tools that will help patients and their healthcare providers more effectively communicate about AFib-related stroke risk,” said Jim Baranski, CEO, National Stroke Association. “Facing AFib is an important program for patients and loved ones as it provides the valuable information they want and resources they need to help them translate knowledge into action.”

AFib STROKE was conducted among 507 patients and 517 health care providers (150 cardiologists, 150 primary care physicians and 217 nurse practitioners) in the United States.6 AFib STROKE was fielded by Harris Interactive® on behalf of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in collaboration with National Stroke Association. Full methodology is available upon request.

About atrial fibrillation and stroke
Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common sustained heart rhythm abnormalities.3 AFib is associated with up to 15 percent of all strokes in the U.S.1 The prevalence of AFib is expected to increase 2.5 fold to 5.6 million by 2050, reflecting the growing population of elderly individuals.3 The risk of stroke associated with Afib increases with age.7 People with risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes are at increased risk of developing AFib.2

Facing AFib Partnering Organizations
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the founding sponsor of the Facing AFib program, has joined with two leading patient advocacy organizations to help raise public awareness of AFib and its related increased stroke risk:

National Stroke Association is the only national organization in the United States that focuses 100 percent of its efforts on stroke. The organization achieves its mission to lower the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling community outreach programs, calling for continued improvement in the quality of stroke patient care and educating both healthcare professionals and the general public about stroke. Visit or call 1-800-STROKES (1-800-787-6537) for more information. Join our Facebook page at founder, Mellanie True Hills, created the site as part of the American Foundation for Women’s Health to share what she and other atrial fibrillation (AFib) patients have learned and to provide others with information and answers to their questions. is a patient-to-patient resource to help patients control their AFib so it doesn’t rule their lives. The site reaches out to patients, families, and caregivers, who all deal with the life-changing impact of AFib. also contains an AFib Services Locator to help patients find the right resources for treating and managing their AFib. (

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit

About Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., based in Ridgefield, CT, is the largest U.S. subsidiary of Boehringer Ingelheim Corporation (Ridgefield, CT) and a member of the Boehringer Ingelheim group of companies.

The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 142 affiliates in 50 countries and more than 41,500 employees. Since it was founded in 1885, the family-owned company has been committed to researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing novel products of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.

In 2009, Boehringer Ingelheim posted net sales of US $17.7 billion (12.7 billion euro) while spending 21% of net sales in its largest business segment, Prescription Medicines, on research and development.

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See Multimedia press release, with video and photos

Anna Moses
Public Affairs & Communications
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Phone: 203-798-4638
Email: [email protected]

©2010 Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. All rights reserved.
Facing AFib, Get Serious About Stroke is a trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

1 Wolf P, et al. Atrial Fibrillation as an independent risk factor for stroke: the Framingham Study. Stroke. 1991;22: 983-988.

2 NHLBI website. “What is AFib?” Available at: Accessed on: August 2, 2010.

3 Go, Alan S., and Elaine M. Hylek et al. Prevalence of Diagnosed Atrial Fibrillation in Adults: National Implications for Rhythm Management and Stroke Prevention: the ATRIA Study. JAMA . 285(2001): 2370-2375.

4 Lin HJ, et al. “Stroke Prevention in Atrial Fibrillation: The Framingham Study.” Stroke. 1996; 27:1760-1764.

5 Dulli D, et al. “Atrial Fibrillation is Associated with Severe Ischemic Stroke.” Neuroepidemiology. 2003; 22:118-123.

6 Data on file

7 Frost L, et al. “Age and Risk of Stroke in Atrial Fibrillation: Evidence for Guidelines?” Neuroepidemiology. 2007;28:109-115.