Patients have their finger on the pulse at QE Gateshead

Posted on Mon, 18/02/2019


Patients at QE Gateshead learned how to carry out a simple and potentially life-saving test that can check if they are at higher risk of a stroke.

As part of Pulse Awareness Month, staff from the cardiology team demonstrated how to check for an irregular pulse – a sign of Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

If you have AF, you are five times more likely to have a stroke and the condition contributes to just under 20% of all strokes in the UK.

Experts believe that thousands of people across the North East are unaware they have AF, as in many cases it will result in no symptoms at all.

They are therefore urging people to regularly check their pulse and if they discover any irregular rhythms to contact their GP.

They are particularly keen to raise awareness amongst young people – who are less likely to get their pulse checked as part of a routine appointment.

“AF can come and go, so it is important to check your pulse on a regular basis,” explains Anya Horne, cardiology specialist nurse.

“It is a condition that is highly treatable but can often go undetected as sufferers can display no symptoms.

“We hope this event helped to raise awareness of how spending just a few minutes taking your pulse, could be lifesaving.”

In AF, your heartbeat is irregular and may be abnormally fast. The heart might not empty itself of blood at each beat, and a clot can form in the blood left behind.

If blood clots form in your heart, there is a risk that it will travel in your bloodstream towards your brain. If a clot blocks one of the arteries leading to your brain, it could cause a stroke.

Retired BT engineer, Colin Birkby, was diagnosed with AF last year. The 75-year-old, who was already undergoing treatment for a lung condition, found that he was getting increasingly breathless. It had reached the point where he was struggling to take his dog for even short walks and even eat.

But during a visit to hospital, he was diagnosed with AF and now, after receiving treatment, has found his condition has greatly improved.

He said: “I just assumed it was all to do with my chest and underlying lung conditions that I was getting so out of breath,” he said. “But, actually, it was because I had AF. I didn’t suffer from palpitations, so I never thought it was my heart.

“Following treatment, I am now able to go on walks with my dog again and keep more active.”

Some common symptoms of AF include:

  • Palpitations (being aware of your heart beating fast)
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue

However, some people do not have any symptoms and AF is often only diagnosed during a general medical check up.

How to check your pulse
For guidance on how to check your pulse click: Here


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