As part of its Year of the Brain, the European Brain Council (EBC) hosted a satellite event on Atrial Fibrillation-related stroke prevention in parallel to the EU Chronic Disease Summit, having identified stroke as one of the few brain diseases where better prevention can measurably improve health outcomes and significantly reduce the EU’s chronic disease burden.

Dr. Peter H. Andersen, Chief Executive of the European Brain Council, said “According to a study commissioned by the European Brain Council, Europe’s stroke burden was estimated at EUR 64 billion in 2010. That is an enormous burden, shouldered by those affected, their families and carers, Europe’s health systems but also its economies. Better diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and better therapy to manage the associated stroke risk is key to reduce this burden once and for all. The EBC therefore calls on EU and national policymakers to develop an EU strategy which puts stroke prevention, in particular related to Atrial Fibrillation, at its heart.”

AF is a type of irregular heartbeat and the second most important risk factor for stroke, yet it is not on the radar of policymakers, healthcare professionals and the public. One in five strokes is linked to AF, and AF-related strokes are more likely to lead to death or severe disability than other kinds of stroke. AF currently affects more than 6 million Europeans but its prevalence is estimated to at least double by 2050 as Europe’s population ages. AF can be easily and detected by simply taking the pulse, and the risk of stroke can be cost-effectively managed through a range of anticoagulants to prevent stroke-causing clots.

Currently, the detection gap for AF in Europe varies between 10 and 45 percent. Out of those diagnosed with AF, between 21 and 59 percent do not obtain therapy online with the scientific guidelines adopted by the European Society of Cardiology in 2012.

Professor John Camm, St. George’s Hospital London and main author of the ESC Guidelines: “Pulse taking needs to be included in routine health checks for those over 65 years old and we need to improve collaboration between cardiologists, neurologists and those working in primary care, establishing a patient-centred integrated approach to care with a view to achieving greater adherence to guideline- conform management of AF.