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A rapid increase in a dangerous heart defect known as a major cause of strokes

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Cases of atrial fibrillation have increased by up to 72 percent in England over the past two decades, researchers have found.

The heart rhythm condition is known as a major cause of strokes. In the largest study into AF, researchers from the University of Leeds analysed GP and hospital data from 3.4 million patients diagnosed between 1998 and 2017.

They found the number with the condition each year increased from 117,880 in 1998 to 202,333 in 2017. An ageing and less healthy population is largely behind the increase, the researchers found.

The University of Leeds team has now developed a digital prediction tool for AF that aims to detect it early, which they hope can be trialled in the NHS.

Professor Chris Gale said: “Changes to healthcare are driven by data and we’ve created the first blueprint of AF that lays bare the growing impact it is having on society.”

“Our study paints a clear picture of the trends and gaps that need to be urgently addressed.”

Funded by the British Heart Foundation, the study is published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe.

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