May 25, 2017 0450 GMT
Atrial fibrillation causes the heart to quiver instead of beating normally, UPI reported.
This causes blood to pool and possibly clot, according to the American Heart Association. If one of those clots breaks free, it can go to the brain and cause a stroke.
One expert, Dr. Nicholas Skipitaris, who directs cardiac electrophysiology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, "Though not a life-threatening rhythm abnormality per se, atrial fibrillation can be associated with devastating life-altering consequences, namely disabling stroke.”
Unfortunately, too few people are getting the treatment for ‘a-fib’ that they need, the new study found.
Taking blood thinners might reduce these patients' stroke risk by two-thirds.
The study published May 15 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
In the new research, a team led by Dr. Lucas Marzec tracked data on 655,000 atrial fibrillation patients treated by cardiologists nationwide over seven years.
The study found that four in 10 of the patients weren't getting the blood thinners they needed to cut their stroke risk.
Plus, up to 35 percent of patients who were taking the drugs weren't getting them at the recommended amount.
Marzec, a clinical cardiac electrophysiologist at the University of Colorado, said, "We need to continue to support research to better understand why [blood thinners] are not being prescribed to the people who need them, so ultimately we reduce strokes in patients at risk.”
Another expert who reviewed the new study agreed more must be done.
Dr. Richard Libman, vice chair of neurology at Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY, said, "Atrial fibrillation is a major cause of stroke — at older ages, it is almost the single leading cause.
“And while blood thinners do come with a slight risk of excess bleeding, the benefits of these anticoagulants far outweigh the risks.
"Sometimes, anticoagulants are withheld simply because the person is old or beyond a certain age, but these older people are actually at increased risk of stroke from atrial fibrillation, and stand to benefit from taking these medications."