heart rhythmManaging the underlying cardiac risk factors of patients treated for atrial fibrillation drastically improves long-term survival rates, according to a new study.

Researchers from University of Adelaide have found that patients suffering from the world's most common heart rhythm disorder can improve their long-term outcomes by up to 70% with an aggressive management of their lifestyle.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is increasingly responsible for dementia, stroke and death, and has a significant impact on healthcare costs.

With electrical "short circuits" believed to be responsible for the abnormal beating of the heart in AF patients, one currently used treatment is to burn the tissue surrounding the problem area, in a process known as "catheter ablation".

A study in the University of Adelaide's Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders followed more than 149 AF patients who had undergone catheter ablation. Of these, 61 had also undergone an intensive risk factor management program.

The program involved attending follow-up appointments at a dedicated risk factor management clinic every three months, in addition to the patients' normal specialist appointments.