Atrial fibrillation is increasingly becoming a burden on America’s health and the healthcare system.

Hospitalizations for the condition jumped 23 percent and costs rose by 24 percent from 2001-10, according to a recent study published in Circulation.

During the study time period, nearly 4 million people were hospitalized with AFib, most over the age of 65. While in-hospital deaths declined, there was little change in the number of days people were hospitalized. The average cost of hospitalization rose from $6,410 to $8,439.

Study authors say the prevalence of AFib is projected to increase to 15.9 million by the year 2050, with more than half of these patients aged 80 years or older. They raise the alert that this would be a substantial public health and economic burden.

AFib is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke and other heart-related complications. More than 2.7 million Americans live with the condition.

The rise in AFib admission is likely due to ageing of the general population and increasing prevalence of risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, sleep apnea and diabetes.

Usually, the most serious risk from AFib is that it can lead to other medical problems, including stroke, heart failure and other heart-related conditions. People with AFib are five times more likely to have a stroke. Fifteen percent to 20 percent of strokes are caused by AFib.

Yet, many people are less likely to connect AFib to stroke than to a heart attack. In a recent American Heart Association survey of more than 500 AFib patients, 38 percent reported having a heart attack as their greatest health concern, while only 8 percent named stroke. But nearly half of those surveyed did know they were at risk for having a stroke.

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