Health & Safety

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Atrial Fibrilation 'Ask First' Campaign

28 August 2011

The CWU Health, Safety and Environment Department has been working with and supporting campaigns with the Stroke Association since 2007. The Stroke Association have launched a new "Ask First" Campaign to raise awareness of Atrial Fibrilation and it’s link to stroke.

Ask First - To help prevent a stroke later

Atrial Fibrilation (AF) is a common heart condition and accounts for some 14% of strokes, which in real terms means that 12,500 people are affected by a stroke due to AF. Given that AF is simple to diagnose and can be treated by regular medication, the majority of these strokes could have been avoided. The Stroke Association is urging anyone who may be concerned about having AF to seek medical advice.

Testing is simple and it could save your life. Their message; Ask first to help prevent a stroke later.

The Stroke Association is working with healthcare professionals to promote screening and appropriate management of AF for patients who present with symptoms. For those diagnosed with AF, something as simple as taking a drug such as 'Warfarin' every day can significantly reduce the chance of suffering from a Stroke.

As well as the health benefits of early detection, the cost savings to the NHS are significant. The cost per stroke due to AF is estimated at around £11,900 in the first year, whereas the cost of maintaining one person on warfarin for one year is £383. Making sure people are aware of the symptoms and how to access medical advice is key to reducing the number of strokes.

What is Atrial Fibrilation?

  • AF is a type of irregular heartbeat. It means your heart is not working as well as it could and it may make you more likely to have a stroke.
  • About 750,000 people in the UK are living with AF, and it’s more common as we get older.

The following could be a sign that you have AF:

  • palpitations (being aware of your heart beating fast)
  • breathlessness
  • chest pain
  • fatigue
  • no symptoms but an irregular pulse over one minute

If you think you have some of these symptoms, it is important to talk to your GP.

Atrial Fibrilation and the link to stroke

A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. This could be due to a blockage in an artery (‘ischaemic stroke’) or by bleeding in the brain (‘haemorrhagic stroke’). A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or ‘mini stroke’ is similar to a stroke, but the symptoms are temporary. Your heart is a muscle and its job is to pump blood around your body. This pumping action creates your pulse. A normal pulse, when you are resting, is regular and between 60 to 100 beats per minute. If you have AF your heart beats in an irregular way (sometimes up to 140 times a minute). If you have an irregular heartbeat, your heart may not have a chance to relax and empty itself of blood properly before filling up again. As a result, the blood does not move quickly and smoothly, and can form clots. If these clots then travel in the blood stream towards the brain, they could block the blood flow to your brain and cause a stroke or TIA.

If you are concerned that you may have AF, it is important for you to Ask First. Make sure you ask your GP for a pulse check to find out whether you may have AF. It could mean that you prevent a future stroke from happening.

Treatments

If you are diagnosed with AF there are a number of treatment options to help prevent AF related strokes, and you should discuss these with your GP or specialist.

Treatments range from simple medications to more complex procedures. The main treatment is blood thinning medication. These medications make your blood less likely to clot. You will need regular tests to check your blood isn’t getting too thin and to watch what you eat, drink and your other medications while on it. There are also a number of new anticoagulants currently being developed. Other blood thinning are used to reduce your risk of stroke if your risk is low, but they are not as effective if you have AF.

  • AF can increase your risk of stroke by up to five times!
  • If you have AF, Warfarin can reduce your risk of stroke by 60%