Knowsley Older People's Voice

Ask First about AF

Atrial fibrillation, try or AF to give its shortened name, is an irregular heartbeat that is known to cause around one in every six strokes. As it affects an estimated 750,000 people in theUK, AF is a major problem that the public and health professionals need to know more about.

Currently there are many people who are unaware that they have AF. However, once someone has been diagnosed with AF, there are very simple ways of treating it which can prevent a significant number of strokes.

Prevention of strokes is important as we know that around one third of strokes result in the person dying and one third result in someone having a disability.

The Stroke Association has launched the Ask First campaign which aims to reduce the amount of AF related strokes by informing the public about the possible risks and providing information on what anyone who is concerned should do.

First, if you or anyone you know has an irregular heartbeat or one of the other symptoms such as heart palpitations, breathlessness or chest pain then it is important to seek medical advice. Many cases of AF are first detected by GPs or practice nurses and they should be your first call.

It’s really simple for a GP or practice nurse to check whether someone may have AF. They can perform a quick pulse check and if the rate is found to be irregular over a two minute period, then they should refer you for further checks.

If you are then diagnosed with AF, there is medication widely available. In most cases this will be something called warfarin. An irregular heart beat will stop your blood from moving quickly and smoothly and this can form clots which are a major cause of stroke. To counteract this, warfarin thins the blood.

If you have any questions about AF and stroke please call The Stroke Association’s helpline on 0303 3033 100, or alternatively visit

And remember. If you are concerned Ask your GP for a pulse check.

Ask First and help prevent a stroke later.

KOPV is contributing to the development of Knowsley’s Stroke Strategy. The above information was presented to KOPV members during a series of Roadshows in March 2011 by staff from the Stroke Association.

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