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The Unknown Heart Condition Sending Thousands To Hospital

A dangerous and surprisingly common heart condition is responsible for sending more Aussies to hospital than any other -- according to a landmark Australian study.

Experts at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute examined data from two decades of national hospital admissions, finding a staggering rise in people being admitted for Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

The common heart rhythm disorder causes the heart to beat in a fast and irregular way, and is often mismanaged or undiagnosed.

It brings with it an eight-fold increase in the risk of stroke, and three times the risk of heart failure.

The study found that over 20 years, the number of heart failure patients rose 39 percent, heart attack patients rose 73 percent. But cases of AF went up by a whopping 295 percent.

Worryingly, the symptoms aren't always obvious.

Image: 10 News First

Adelaide patient Philip Darbyshire is a fit and healthy 65-year-old who learned he had AF during a routine visit to the GP following a weekend bike ride.

"She said I'll take your pulse while I'm here and she took my pulse and said 'you're in rapid AF, quick, treatment room'," Darbyshire told 10 News First.

"I think one of the worries was that I didn't have obvious symptoms.

"I didn't get messages like chest pain or fainting.

"Absolutely get checked out, even if you feel perfectly healthy because you might not be inside."

Image: Getty Images

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Celine Gallagher from SAHMRI said like all heart conditions, you can take preventative steps.

"Risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation include being overweight or obese, or having high blood pressure," she said.