(NaturalNews) The frequency of a common heart condition has increased by more than 200 percent in Australia in the past 15 years, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Adelaide and the Cardiovascular Research Center at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and presented at the European Society of Cardiology's Scientific Congress in Stockholm, Sweden.
"This study highlights the enormous public health burden of atrial fibrillation on hospitals and the need for not only better treatments for this increasingly common condition, but also preventative strategies to stop it occurring in the first place," researcher Prash Sanders said.
Researchers examined all hospitalization cases for atrial fibrillation, a kind of irregular heartbeat, in Australia between 1993 and 2008. They found that while the length of each admission decreased over that time, the number of admissions rose by 200 percent -- far greater than the population increase over that time.
"This highlights the fact that not only have the absolute number of admissions increased significantly, but also the percentage of the population hospitalized for atrial fibrillation is continuing to increase at an alarming rate," researcher Chris Wong said.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common sustained heartbeat disorder in the world. It is normally considered a minor problem, but can become serious without treatment.
"Importantly, left untreated, it can have devastating consequences such as stroke and death," Wong said. "One in five strokes are due to this heart rhythm disorder."
The researchers also found that the disorder was significantly more common among Aboriginal Australians than among non-indigenous Australians. Indigenous people also developed the disease an average of 20 years earlier than non-indigenous people did, and spent twice as long in the hospital.
"In this community, their risk factors are high, and so it's presenting earlier," Prash said.
"When they present they're sicker and have to stay a lot longer in hospital. We really, really [have] got to spend much more time and effort in that population to try to curtail the consequences of this condition."