Majority of people not being screened for AF and stroke risk factors, report reveals

New research released today by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a division of The Economist and a leader in global business intelligence, revealed that on average, more than 75 percent of people aged 65 and older worldwide are not being screened for atrial fibrillation (AF) and other common stroke risk factors during routine primary care examinations, even though this population is at high risk for stroke. The EIU "Preventing Stroke: Uneven Progress" report, sponsored by The Bristol-Myers Squibb-Pfizer Alliance, conducted an analysis of 20 countries and found that efforts to screen people for stroke risk factors including AF and hypertension varied widely, even in countries with established health care and developed economies.

"Stroke is the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for 6.2 million deaths, but is nearly 80 percent preventable," said Becca Lipman, editor of the EIU's thought leadership division and of this report. "Our hope is that this research will elevate the awareness and urgency surrounding screening for stroke risk factors including AF and hypertension and offer suggestions on what can be done on a country-by-country level to further improve prevention. There are critical and urgent opportunities to improve screening, so that fewer people suffer the devastating consequences of stroke."

The "Preventing Stroke: Uneven Progress" report considered policy efforts to assess and reduce risks of stroke across different aspects including awareness, screening practices and policies. Key findings include:

  • There is a disconnect between established best practices and everyday clinical practice. For example, there are gaps in the training of health care professionals to properly identify and treat stroke risks.
  • Screening for AF and hypertension remains low and is not regularly performed in clinical practice.
  • Future policies should focus on strategies to improve awareness of stroke risk factors, implement systematic and/or opportunistic screenings, and include both individual and population-based health-intervention approaches.

"People with AF are at least three times more likely to have a stroke than those without this condition," said Rory O'Connor, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Pfizer Internal Medicine. "Even modest improvements in diagnosis and treatment of stroke risk factors including AF - supported by collaborations across healthcare providers, advocates, policymakers and the private sector - could potentially prevent many strokes and related deaths."

"We are committed to supporting increased early detection and diagnosis with the goal of ultimately reducing the prevalence of AF-related strokes globally," said Christoph Koenen, MD, MBA, VP, Development Lead, Cardiovascular Medicine, Bristol-Myers Squibb. "By working to implement research-driven approaches, The Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer Alliance is aiming to close gaps that are currently leaving undiagnosed and under-treated AF patients at unnecessary risk for stroke."

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