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Raising awareness of a silent risk

POSTED: May 15, 2014 1:52 p.m.

This session I sponsored House Resolution 1717, which recognized May 14, 2014, as Atrial Fibrillation Day in the state of Georgia to help raise awareness about this serious, silent threat to many Georgians. Atrial fibrillation, the most common form of arrhythmia, occurs when the electrical activity of the heart is disorganized, causing an irregular heartbeat, disrupting the flow of blood through the heart and into the brain.

Adults 40 years and older have a 25 percent lifetime risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Risk factors for atrial fibrillation include high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, alcohol misuse, advanced age, thyroid disease and heart disease.

Those with atrial fibrillation have a risk of stroke that is five times greater than the general population, and 15 to 20 percent of all people who have strokes also have atrial fibrillation.

Stroke has a severe and lasting impact on the state of Georgia. It is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in one person dying from stroke every four minutes.

In 2010, the most recent numbers available, nearly 4,000 Georgians died after suffering from a stroke. Most of us are familiar with the devastating effects of stroke and the morbidity and mortality associated with this disease process.

The best defense against stroke is prevention. There are several ways to lower your risk for stroke including exercise, eliminating tobacco use, eating a healthier diet that has been customized by your family physician and created especially for you, and cutting back on alcohol consumption.

According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of all strokes can be avoided by properly managing your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and atrial fibrillation.

Family physicians serve as your personal front line defense against preventable disease. Once they identify patients with risk factors for stroke, they can help patients create their own personal plan of action to educate and create accountability.

Also, Georgia physicians are kicking off a social media campaign with Twitter messages about atrial fibrillation and stroke on the 4th, 14th and 24th of each month @GAFamilyDocs with #StopAFIBinGA. Follow them to learn more and have a healthy, safe summer.

Rep. Katie Dempsey represents the citizens of District 13, which includes portions of Floyd County. She was elected into the House of Representatives in 2006, and  currently serves as the chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Resources. She also serves on the Rules, Economic Development and Tourism, Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications, Health and Human Services, and Higher Education committees.

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