Did you know 1.5 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (AF)? AF is the most common form of heart rhythm disorder worldwide affecting 16 million people. This heart condition causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heartbeat. For people living with it, it is really important to seek treatment as the symptoms of the condition can increase the chances of having a stroke, heart failure or other heart-related complications.
Experts believe that there are a further 500,000 people in the UK who are living with AF but are yet to be diagnosed. That’s why raising awareness of the condition is so important. This week, Monday 19 to Sunday 25 November, is #AFAwareWeek and its purpose is to do just that.
Experts, health professionals, sector leaders and the NHS are all involved and talking about AF, how to spot the symptoms and the types of treatment needed to help people return their heart beat to a regular rate and reduce chances of it leading to further complications.
#AFAwareWeek is also giving the people living with the condition the opportunity to speak up and tell their story about AF. One of the 1.5 million people diagnosed with AF in the UK is Shirley Harrison, Internal Quality Assessor for our Clinical Health courses here at BB Training Academy. She was diagnosed with AF in 2013 and she wants to make more people aware of the importance of ensuring they have a healthy heartbeat. Here’s her story.
When I first realised I was having heart palpitations, I did what many people tend to do when they’ve felt something is wrong, I ignored it. I think it’s human nature to have that mindset, to believe it’s just temporary and that it will go away.
But ignoring it didn’t make it go away or help make it better. Eventually I had to seek medical advice as I was having palpitations more regularly. I visited my local GP, before they sent me to hospital to seek treatment.
I was diagnosed with AF and since then I have had to really keep on top of taking my medication and by the way of a diary, I have been documenting when the palpitations occur. This includes not just the time of the palpitations and how long they last, but also what I am doing when it starts happening.
The diary is a really important part of the treatment as it helps the medical professionals treating me identify the lifestyle habits, I need to change to ensure I have a healthy and regular heartbeat. I have lowered my blood pressure by losing weight, cutting out salt and walking more regularly. Doing this alongside the medication I am on has really helped to put me in control of the condition.
Before I made the changes to my lifestyle, I was making regular visits to the GP and the hospital to stay on top of treating my AF. I now only need an annual check-up, because thanks to the fantastic team at my local GP surgery and at the NHS, I am in control of my treatment.
I monitor both my pulse and blood pressure from home regularly and I know when I need medical intervention or advice. Seeking treatment also helped to educate me on the condition which is just as important as recognising that you have it.
Once I realised the serious implications of letting it go untreated and understood how it could affect me, it has made me even more determined to stay on top of my treatment. I think it’s so important to make as many people aware as possible of the condition, so that they can make the decision to take their treatment, into their control.
With one in four people over the age of 40 developing AF, we need more people to know their pulse and their heart rate. To join the conversation and to find out more about AF, please go to #AFAwareWeek on social media and start raising awareness now. Don’t forget to use #NHS70 when talking about the importance of the great work the NHS is doing to treat AF.