Article for the Sale and Altrincham Messenger
Atrial fibrillation - a heart rhythm problem that can lead to a stroke
What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm disturbance with a fast and irregular heartbeat. It's the most common arrhythmia in the UK. The incidence of atrial fibrillation increases with age; it affects 10% of people over 65 years. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke but once recognised, it can be effectively managed and the risk of stroke can be significantly reduced.
How to find out if you have AF?
The best way to detect an irregular heartbeat is by checking your pulse. You can do this yourself by placing two fingers of your left hand on your right wrist, just below the base of your thumb and pressing lightly until you feel a pulse. If your heartbeat is fast and irregular (usually well above 100 beats per minute), book an appointment with your GP who will investigate this further and refer you if required.
If in doubt, get checked
Dr Petr Ruzicka is a consultant cardiologist with a private practice at the Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle with a particular interest in heart rhythm problems. He advises that people shouldn't panic if their pulse feels irregular; that can be down to many factors such as tiredness or stress, but it's essential to have this checked out to get the proper support and treatment if needed. It's a very treatable condition.