New data from the research project, Prevention of thromboembolic events-European Registry in Atrial Fibrillation (PREFER in AF), has recently been published and highlights an increased stroke risk among diabetes patients with abnormal heart rhythm.
The findings, which are being presented at the last European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in Romen, Italy, reveal specific at-risk patient profiles for one of the most common forms of arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation (AF).
AF is a heart rhythm disorder where the heart beats irregularly and rapidly, which often causes blood to thicken and increase the risk of blood clots. When blood clots break off and travel through the bloodstream to the brain, it can result in a stroke.
Compared to people without AF, those with the arrhythmia – which concerns over six million Europeans – have between a three and five times higher risk of stroke, with one in five of all strokes caused by AF.
The initial PREFER in AF registry enrolled 7,243 patients across 461 centres in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. A second study gathered data from 5,000 patients across 325 centres and included two additional countries; Belgium and the Netherlands.
The information from the PREFER in AF patient registry was collected after one year follow-up and it was adjusted for co-morbidities predisposing patients to damage to blood vessels which can lead to a stroke, such as thrombosis.
The findings revealed that AF patients with diabetes who are on insulin treatment are at a significantly increased risk of stroke than AF patients without diabetes (5.2 per cent versus 1.9 per cent) or AF patients with diabetes not on insulin treatment (5.2 per cent versus 1.8 per cent).
It also showed that patients with diabetes not receiving insulin therapy had similar incidence of thromboembolic events than patients without diabetes.
While the results provide an indication of differences on clinical outcomes for specific patient characteristics, further research is needed to establish whether this can be used to inform and enhance AF management.

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