500,000 people in the UK have an undiagnosed irregular heartbeat

The British Heart Foundation has warned that an estimated half a million people in the UK are unaware that they are suffering from an irregular heartbeat, or atrial fibrillation.  The charity analysed various data sources including the Atrial Fibrillation Association, Public Health England and GPs’ quality & outcomes framework prevalence data to make their estimate.

This research comes with a stark warning that those with atrial fibrillation could have a higher risk of stroke if the condition is not diagnosed, monitored and treated.  If left untreated, atrial fibrillation can increase your risk of stroke by up to five times.

The NHS currently estimate that approximately 7 in 100 people aged over 65 are affected by atrial fibrillation, and put the total figure of those in the UK with the condition at around one million.  The British Heart Foundation say this figure is too low, suggesting that there are hundreds of thousands more who are yet to be diagnosed.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at The British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Thousands of people with atrial fibrillation are needlessly dying of stroke every year because they are not being identified, and adequately managed.’

The cause of atrial fibrillation is largely unknown, however it is associated with heart conditions, diabetes, asthma and an overactive thyroid gland.  These conditions could be easily detected with various health checks, including blood pressure and diabetes checks.