‘I thought I was too young for this’: New health campaign aims to prevent ‘silent killer’ of over 50s

THE IRISH HEART Foundation has launched a new public awareness campaign to help over 50s know if they suffer from a condition described as a “silent killer”.

The ‘Prevent a Stroke: Feel the Pulse’ campaign is urging members of the public to check their pulse twice a day for two weeks to test whether they may have atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, with one in four people over the age of 50 at risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms can include tiredness, dizziness, palpitations, chest pain, and shortness of breath, but very often those who have the condition experience no symptoms at all.

However, atrial fibrillation can lead to a range of health complications, including stroke, permanent heart damage and heart failure.

Those with atrial fibrillation who leave the condition untreated are five times more likely to have a stroke, but with early diagnosis, the condition is treatable.

The Irish Heart Foundation says this is why it is crucial for those over 50 years of age to regularly check their pulse for irregularities.

‘Silent killer’

One of those with the condition is Rebecca Redmond, who was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation two years ago.

“I was only 44 when I was diagnosed, but I had no realisation I had the condition at the time,” she tells TheJournal.ie.

At the time, Rebecca began suffering from leg swelling, fatigue, and shortness of breath, but explains that she tried to explain those symptoms as being down to her lack of fitness.

However, after visiting her doctor and A&E, she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

“It came as such a shock to me and my family; I thought I was too young for something like this,” she says.

“It can be a silent killer, but it’s one that can be managed. That’s the thing about the campaign and something that people will be reassured to know; it’s not the problem that it needs to be.”

How to check

A recent survey conducted by the Irish Heart Foundation found that 69% of people over the age of 50 admitted that they didn’t know that regularly checking their pulse could detect the condition.

To help people become more aware of atrial fibrillation, the group has launched a campaign teaching people how to test for the condition by checking their pulse.

They say people should do this by remembering the ’2x2x2′ method: using two fingers on their wrists to check their pulse twice a day for two weeks, then taking note of the results.

Sitting in a chair, testers should rest their arms with their palms facing upwards on the arm of the chair or on a table.

Two fingers – the middle finger and index finger – should be placed on the wrist at the base of the thumb, and pressed down gently to feel for a pulse.

Using a watch, clock or phone to time 30 seconds, testers should then count the number of beats they feel in half a minute, then multiply the result by two to get the number of beats per minute.

A normal resting pulse is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, and the beats should be regular. If the pulse feels irregular, then it’s possible that atrial fibrillation could be diagnosed.

Those whose pulse feels irregular or very fast – or who have difficulty feeling their pulse – should contact their doctor or call the Irish Heart Foundation’s Heart and Stroke Helpline on 1800 25 25 50.