People in Redbridge are being invited to “know your pulse rate” as part of a drive to reduce strokes in the borough.
Local GPs, led by Dr Shabana Ali, set up a stall outside Marks and Spencer in South Woodford on Tuesday (19 November), where they taught them how to measure their pulse rate to check for the symptoms atrial fibrillation (AF).
The condition – which causes an irregular and abnormally fast heartbeat – makes your heart less able to pump blood around your body. This can increase your risk of a blood clot forming that could block the flow of blood to your brain and cause a stroke.
The GPs spoke to passers by to raise awareness of AF and encouraged those with an irregular pulse rate to contact their own doctor. Recognising the symptoms of AF – and seeking prompt medical advice – can help prevent a stroke.
Dr Ali’s team also used a small machine that allowed them to do a full electrocardiogram (ECG) to detect heart rhythms on the street. The team would do a manual initial pulse check on people’s wrists, teaching them how to do it themselves, before doing the thirty second ECG using the secure mobile technology to give people instant results whilst they shopped. When they identified anyone with an issue, the team gave them advice and gave them a letter that they could take back to their own GP for follow-up checks.
Dr Ali, a GP at Southdene Surgery in South Woodford and a clinical director at NHS Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “It was great to be able to speak to so many local residents about the importance of knowing their pulse, especially given the icy weather.
“Atrial Fibrillation is a very serious illness, and often leads to a life threatening or disabling stroke. The best defence against this is an informed local population who understand the risks and how to check their own pulse for any irregularities. That’s why we came out here, and we were delighted to be able to speak to so many local people about the matter.”
The event builds on the successful work undertaken by Dr Ali and her team to better identify and medicate patients with AF to reduce strokes across the borough.
As a result of their work, Redbridge saw the biggest increase in London, and the second biggest increase nationally, in the proportion of high-risk AF patients being treated with anticoagulant medication which plays a vital part in preventing strokes. This led to a nomination for a prestigious HSJ (Health Service Journal) Value Award earlier this year.
The local awareness drive coincides with Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Week (18-24 November), which is organised by the AF Association. Its principal aim this year is to encourage people to detect AF through the ‘know your pulse’ programme.
AF affects more than 1.5 million people in the UK, with up to 500,000 of those still unidentified and at high risk of an AF-related stroke. AF primarily affects adults aged 65 and over and can quickly evolve into life-threatening complications such as stroke or heart failure.
For more information on AF, its common symptoms and how it can be treated, visit the atrial fibrillation page on the NHS website.