A global alliance of patients, carers, patient groups, community groups, health care professionals, government and allied professionals will come together to raise awareness of cardiac arrhythmias on 8-14 June 2009, as part of the 6th annual Arrhythmia Awareness Week and World Heart Rhythm Week.
In the UK, there are currently 1.7 million people diagnosed with an arrhythmia and 1.2 million people diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. “Know Your Pulse” will be the theme for the awareness week. Arrhythmia Alliance and Atrial Fibrillation Association (AFA) aim to raise public and medical awareness of the pulse as a tool to identify potential heart arrhythmias; therefore encouraging routine pulse checks as a matter of procedure, as exist for blood pressure and weight.
Since the establishment of AFA in 2007, the charity has worked to provide information, support and access to established, new or innovative treatments for atrial fibrillation. This year, the UK’s Department of Health has highlighted atrial fibrillation as a significant priority for the NHS. AFA has worked closely with the Departament of Health to promote effective identification of policy and practice, and the Arrhythmia Awareness Week reflects this aspect of the national agenda.
During the awareness week, Arrhythmia Alliance will work in collaboration with AFA, City Heart Week, clinicians and medical centres across the UK to facilitate pulse check at clinics and stands, where nurses, first aiders and doctors will offer free pulse checks and educate the public on how to monitor their pulse. These may be in shopping centres, libraries, leisure centres, GP clinics or local hospitals. Members of the public will be given a pulse information pullout, which will enable people to keep a record of their pulse over a period of time.
GPs are being encouraged to routinely perform pulse checks and question all patients with risk factors for heart rhythm problems including symptoms such as dizziness, blackouts and palpitations. A series of posters and patient information material for GPs’ surgeries is available. These can be ordered from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arrhythmia Alliance encourages medical professionals to get involved in the Arrhythmia Awareness Week by distributing information booklets in their GP surgeries, clinics and hospitals. Arrhythmia Alliance Patient Information Booklets endorsed by the Department of Health and the A-A Executive Committee are available for distribution.
The following facts highlight the importance and necessity for the pulse as an indicator of atrial fibrillation:
- It is estimated 200,000 people are diagnosed with atrial fibrillation each year.
- In the UK, 500,000-700,000 people suffer from atrial fibrillation. In total, it is thought there are 1.2 million atrial fibrillation cases in the UK – not all diagnosed, and the incidence of which is rising by 5% annually.
- According to Department of Health figures, 12,500 strokes of the 110,000 recorded each year are directly attributable to atrial fibrillation. Add atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure and the number equates to 50,000 of the 110,000 strokes.
- Over a 40-year time period, atrial fibrillation almost doubles the risk of death.
- Atrial fibrillation leads to 575,000 hospital admissions per year. Of these about 16% are the primary cause – which is about 95, 000 per year in the UK. As most are unplanned this steeply increases the costs.
- Atrial fibrillation consumes 1% of the total NHS budget per year in the UK.