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Fingers on pulses for Heart Rhythm Week

29th May 2015 | By Liz Mattock | Posted in

know-you-rpulse-440-x-241During Heart Rhythm Week (June 1st – 7th) Leicester City Clinical Commissioning group is encouraging people aged over 65 to get their pulse rate checked at their local GP practice.

Asking a clinician to feel your pulse at the wrist is a simple way to check for atrial fibrillation (AF), which is one of the most common heart rhythm problems and is a major cause of stroke.

AF affects up to 800,000 people in the UK and is most common in those over 65 years of age. It causes a fast, irregular pulse, which can lead to a persistent heart flutter.
You may also feel dizzy, short of breath and very tired, although many people have no symptoms at all.

Dr Umesh Roy, GP and clinical lead for cardio vascular disease with Leicester City CCG, explained: “Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and are completely unaware they have the condition, but it is very important to get AF diagnosed. An irregular pulse is a sign that you may have AF. It is simple to treat – most cases simply require medication – and that treatment could prevent you having a stroke. We would urge anyone aged 65 or over to ask their doctor or practice nurse to check their pulse and show you how to check for yourself.”
Leicester City CCG will also be encouraging doctors and nurses to carry out opportunistic checks when people aged over 65 are at the surgery. Dr Roy continued: “We hope that with this approach we will be able to identify more cases of AF and help prevent strokes.”

Michael Fowden is one patient who has already benefitted from the proactive approach of his practice nurse, Anna Crane, at Downing Drive Surgery. He was diagnosed with AF in 2013 following a routine appointment. “I went in one Wednesday to see Anna for a health check. She felt my pulse and said it was very slow, just 33 beats per minute; straight away she did an ECG and then sent me to Glenfield Hospital that same day. They did some tests and kept me in for the night. On Friday morning I had a pacemaker fitted and that was that.” Michael is also on warfarin tablets and has regular reviews.

Michael had not noticed any symptoms beforehand and says that he feels no different since having the pacemaker fitted. However, he knows how vital the treatment has been for his health and would encourage others to go for health checks when invited, “especially men, who aren’t always very good with that kind of thing”. He also says that having AF diagnosed probably saved his life: “If you leave it, you’ve had it. It’s all down to Anna, without her I wouldn’t be sitting here now.” Most patients with AF do not need pacemakers – usually a couple of extra medications is all that is required to prevent the condition causing strokes and ill health.

As well as over 65’s being advised to have their pulses checked, patients of any age are advised to make an appointment to see your GP if you notice a sudden change in heartbeat or if your heart rate is consistently lower than 60 or above 100 beats per minute, especially if you are experiencing other symptoms of AF.

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