21 August 2019
A study shows that about 15 to 20 percent of people who have strokes have atrial fibrillation, also called A Fib. Photo: Reuters
A study shows that about 15 to 20 percent of people who have strokes have atrial fibrillation, also called A Fib. Photo: Reuters

The curse of stroke in some young adults

The siren of the ambulance wailed urgently, cutting through the cold winter morning.

Paramedics were seen rushing into Wong’s house, prompting neighbors to wonder if Uncle Wong’s high blood pressure had finally taken a terrible toll on his health.

But, to their shock, they saw that it was not Uncle Wong but actually his 25-year-old son who was getting carried out on a stretcher by the paramedics.

People then started discussing and gathering information about the junior Wong. It was learnt that the young man had been working for a large internet company in Mainland China, holding a key post and drawing a big salary. But the high salary came with a lot of responsibilities.

He had been working overtime every day. Sometimes he felt dizzy, out of breath, heart palpitation and ache in the chest but he dismissed it as a result of heavy workload and did not seek a medical examination.

On that morning, junior Wong woke up and the right half of this body was weak. He then fell into a coma, prompting his family to hurriedly call an ambulance. At the hospital, the junior Wong was diagnosed as having cerebral infarction, which is commonly known as a stroke.

The doctor determined the case as one involving atrial fibrillation, also called A Fib. It is one of the common heart arrhythmias, which means having a quivering or irregular heartbeat that will lead to serious consequences.

In atrial fibrillation, a heart does not contract and relax to a regular beat. Without an effective regular beat, the heart cannot pump blood into the ventricles. The atrial blood may coagulate and form clots.

If the clot enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain, kidneys, or limbs, severe illnesses, such as stroke, renal embolism, and limb arterial embolism, will happen and patients lose their ability to work.

According to a research study, atrial fibrillation patients have seen an uptrend in numbers. About one-fourth of elderly aged 40 or above has atrial fibrillation and they have a five-fold increased risk for stroke than people without it.

Another study shows that about 15 to 20 percent of people who have strokes have this heart arrhythmia.

In fact, this is an underestimated number as many patients are unaware of their condition. The reason is that there is no obvious symptom of atrial fibrillation, and it will only be discovered under a physical examination or a 24-hour holter monitoring ECG.

Without obvious symptoms, patients do not realize their condition early, resulting in delayed diagnosis and treatment. Statistics show that about one-third of atrial fibrillation has not been diagnosed and there is no sign of it.

Atrial fibrillation symptoms include irregular heartbeat, asthma, heart palpitations, dizziness, chest tightness, chest pain, etc.

If you have the above symptoms, you should go to the hospital for ECG examination to assess the possibility of having atrial fibrillation. Through accurate treatment, it can be stabilized and controlled to avoid possible complications.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 27

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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