The impact of atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a condition which affects up to 800,000 people in the UK. It can be present in adults of any age but becomes more common the older you get. The condition is associated with poor quality of life and an increased risk of cardiovascular complications such as stroke and heart failure. In fact it is related to 20% of all strokes.
The number of people with atrial fibrillation in the UK is showing a 5% annual increase and this is expected to continue to rise due to demographic and lifestyle changes in the population.
Atrial fibrillation often has no symptoms so many people will not know that they have it.
This means that diagnosis often only occurs as a result of a routine test or investigation into another condition. Our FREE* Atrial Fibrillation Screening Service can help you to understand whether you have the condition and therefore take action to have it treated to avoid further complications*.
What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition which can cause an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. When the heart beats normally, its muscular walls contract to force blood out and around the body – then they relax so the heart can fill with blood again.
This process is repeated every time the heart beats. When someone has atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (called the atria) contract randomly and sometimes so fast that the heart muscle cannot relax properly between contractions. If not relaxing properly, the amount of blood entering the heart at each beat is decreased resulting in a reduction in efficiency and performance.
The main complication of atrial fibrillation is an increased risk of stroke. This is because it can cause small blood clots which travel around the bloodstream until they get stuck in smaller blood vessels such as in the brain. This can lead to blood supply being cut off to part of the brain, resulting in a stroke.
Although many people with atrial fibrillation are symptom free, some may notice a fast and irregular heart beat – known as palpitations. Additionally they may experience tiredness, breathlessness or dizziness.
Treatment for atrial fibrillation will vary from person to person. The first step is to try and identify the cause and treat this if possible. If not, atrial fibrillation can be treated with medication to restore a normal heart rhythm, and in addition, a medicine can be taken to prevent blood clots and therefore a stroke.
The risk factors
There are a wide range of risk factors associated with atrial fibrillation. Some are due to lifestyle, others to existing medical conditions. However some patients with atrial fibrillation have no other conditions and no cause can be found – it can affect extremely healthy people.
Lifestyle risk factors
There are a number of lifestyle risk factors associated with atrial fibrillation:
• Being overweight
• Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, especially binge drinking
• Being a smoker or ex-smoker
Living a healthy lifestyle is a great way to reduce your risk of developing atrial fibrillation. If you are concerned about any of these risk factors, or would like help to reduce them, please speak to a member of our pharmacy team.
Existing medical conditions
If you have certain medical conditions, there is an increased chance that you will develop atrial fibrillation.
These conditions include:
• Heart failure
• Raised cholesterol
• Asthma and COPD
• Pulmonary embolism
Not everyone with one of these conditions will develop atrial fibrillation
How can we help?
The Atrial Fibrillation Screening Service is conducted by trained team members of the pharmacy team in our private consultation room.
The service includes:
• A discussion about your lifestyle and any risks it may have to your health
• Screening for atrial fibrillation and conducting a blood pressure measurement
• An electrocardiogram (ECG) being recorded and sent to a cardiologist for analysis, if signs of atrial fibrillation are detected
• A discussion about the results of the measurements taken and what they mean
The consultation will last around 30 minutes. If you have an ECG recorded, the pharmacist will telephone you within 24 hours to discuss the cardiologist’s analysis and depending on the results they may advise you to see your GP.
You will need to check to see if you are eligible for the service. You can do this by completing the Pre-screening Questionnaire at the end of this leaflet with a member of
our pharmacy team.
This service is available in store at
Regent Pharmacy, 19 Windmill Street, Gravesend, Kent DA12 1AS
Tel: 01474 534771