New campaign aims to reduce major stroke risk

Simple pulse check may detect AF
  • Deborah Condon

People are being urged to check their pulse twice a day for two weeks as part of a campaign aimed at reducing the risk of stroke.

The Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) has launched the 'Prevent a Stroke: Feel the Pulse' campaign, which encourages people to use the 2x2x2 method - using two fingers on your wrist to check your pulse two times a day for two weeks.

If your pulse feel irregular, you may have atrial fibrillation (AF), and those with untreated AF are five times more likely to suffer a stroke.

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.

The condition is treatable with early diagnosis.

Currently in Ireland, one in four people over the age of 50 is at risk of developing AF. However, recent research by the IHF found that 69% of those aged 50 and older did not know that the condition could be detected by a simple pulse check.

Rebecca Redmond from Clonskeagh in Dublin was diagnosed with AF two years ago at the age of 44. She said that looking back now, she had all the classic symptoms of the condition, she does did not know it.

"I had very severe bouts of leg swelling, fatigue, and shortness of breath. I tried to explain it away as maybe being a little unfit, but deep down I knew something was wrong. After a couple of doctor and A&E visits, I was eventually diagnosed with AF. It came as such a shock to me and my family - surely I was too young for something like this?"

She said that she now keeps track of her pulse, eats healthily, exercises regularly and tries to avoid stress.

"What people don't understand is how AF detrimentally affects your energy levels - I don't have that ‘energy reserve' anymore, which is definitely a challenge with three boys under the age of 15.

"For me, it's all about working around my AF and not letting it take over. I advise anyone with AF to look after themselves and keep a diary so you know what your triggers are. This campaign is so important. It's really simple to check your pulse every day, and it's something we all should incorporate in to our daily routine," Ms Redmond said.

According to IHF medical director, Dr Angie Brown, this campaign aims to empower people over the age of 50 ‘to get familiar with their pulse'.

"Although AF is generally not life-threatening, it is a serious condition and can lead to complications - most commonly stroke. By knowing about its possible complications, you can find out how to lower your chances of them happening to you," Dr Brown said.

When checking your pulse, the IHF advises people to:
-Sit in a chair and rest your arm, palm facing upwards on the arm of the chair or on a table
-Put two fingers - your middle finger and index finger - on your wrist at the base of your thumb
-Press down gently until you feel your pulse
-Use a watch, clock or phone to time 30 seconds. Count the number of beats you feel in 30 seconds and then multiply the result by two. This is the number of beats per minute
-A normal resting pulse is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, and the beats are regular
-Do this twice a day, for two weeks, and use the IHF's Pulse Check Card to keep a record
-Make sure you're sitting down when you check your pulse and do not drink caffeine or alcohol, or smoke, beforehand.

For more information on the campaign, including how to check your pulse, click here


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