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Low awareness of atrial fibrillation

Wednesday 22nd June 2016 - Deborah Condon , Irish Health View Article Here

Over half of Irish adults have never heard of atrial fibrillation (AF) despite the fact that it affects up to 40,000 people over the age of 50 and is a major risk factor for stroke, new research has found.

According to the findings, 54% of people have never heard of the condition while 29% are unsure how to detect it.

AF causes irregular and rapid heartbeats, which can make the heart less efficient at pumping blood around the body. This can lead to palpitations, breathlessness, dizziness, angina and the development of blood clots. However, there may be no symptoms, therefore a person may be unaware that they have it.

The condition can be detected by a simple pulse check. A normal pulse is 60-100 beats per minute in a regular rhythm. If your pulse is slow and irregular, fast and racing, consistently above 120 beats per minute or consistently below 40 beats per minute, you should see your doctor.

A new campaign - Pulse Check - has been launched to encourage those over the age of 60 to incorporate a simple pulse check into their morning routine.

"AF is a serious condition that can lead to a number of health complications and is a factor in up to 30% of strokes in Ireland each year. Those aged 60 or over are most at risk and should make sure to check their pulse every morning as part of a regular routine, alongside hitting the snooze button and brushing their teeth," commented Dr John Keaney, a consultant cardiologist at the Mater Private Hospital.

He noted that the research carried out as part of this campaign shows that many people are unsure how to check their pulse, but he insisted that it is ‘very straight forward'.

"First, face the palm of either hand upwards. Second, place the index and middle finger of your other hand on the wrist. Third, count the number of beats for 30 seconds and double it. This is your pulse rate," he explained.

The campaign was launched by former broadcaster, Anne Doyle, who said that she has made checking her pulse part of her daily routine.

"It only takes 30 seconds each morning and it leaves me feeling reassured for the rest of the day. AF might not be life threatening in itself, but it can lead to potentially serious side-effects including heart failure or stroke. Some 2,000 people die of stroke in Ireland each year and those living with AF are five times more likely to suffer a stroke," she noted.

The research for the Pulse Check campaign was commissioned by the Mater Private National Arrhythmia Service and involved a survey of over 1,000 adults nationwide.

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