Australians are being urged to check whether they have an irregular heartbeat known as Atrial Fibrillation (AF), which dramatically increases the risk of stroke during AF awareness week this week.
Atrial Fibrillation is the most common abnormal heart rhythm that affects more than 460,000 Australians. Left untreated, an irregular heartbeat can cause blood to pool in a chamber of the heart and form a clot that can travel to the brain, causing a devastating stroke.
Those living with AF the risk of stroke is 5-7 time greater than the general population and the risk of mortality can increase by up to 90%.
While AF can be detected by a simple pulse test to check heart rate, as many as 30% of the 460,000 Australians with the condition remain undiagnosed and at heightened risk of stroke.
In order to reduce the risk of stroke early diagnosis is crucial.
As part of AF Awareness Week from the 17-23 September, hearts4heart has set up free, mobile heart testing stations in hospitals, GP Clinics and pharmacies across the nation to screen for Atrial Fibrillation. Click here for locations.
Tanya Hall, CEO of hearts4heart, is urging Australians, particularly those aged over 65 years or with existing heart conditions, to attend the stations or to make an appointment with their doctor to get tested. She is also encouraging them to routinely ask for pulse testing during blood pressure and general health checks – an important step since AF is not always picked up by a single pulse reading.
Additionally, Ms Hall is calling on doctors, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to speak to patients about pulse testing, as well as federal, state and territory politicians to support measures to ensure AF screening becomes standard across Australia.
“Atrial fibrillation-related strokes can be prevented, but diagnosis remains the critical first step. With AF costing the health system $1.63 billion every year, there is no excuse for complacency,” she said.