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​Stroke Prevention from abnormal heart rhythm

NHS Lewisham CCG is raising awareness of a type of abnormal heart rhythm, known as atrial fibrillation (AF), to reduce the number of strokes.    

What is AF?

This is a common abnormal heart rhythm that happens when electrical impulses fire off from different places in the atria (the top chambers of the heart) in a disorganised way. This is felt as an irregular and sometimes fast heartbeat, or pulse.

AF is a major risk factor for stroke, affecting around 1.73 per cent of the population in England. Across London the condition is under-detected, with an estimated 69,000 adults currently undiagnosed.

Untreated abnormal heart rhythm increases the risk of stroke five-fold.  Also strokes associated with AF are often more severe, with higher disability and deaths. AF related stroke is however preventable

What are the symptoms of AF?

  • Palpitation (being aware of your heart beat)
  • Tiredness and being less able to exercise
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or feeling faint.

What are we doing in Lewisham to prevent such strokes?

We are supporting healthcare professionals to:

  • Improve detection of AF in the population.
  • Improve the quality of life of adults with AF.
  • Promote initiation of appropriate medication (anticoagulant therapies) in those at risk of stroke.
  • Allow patients to be involved in decision making.
  • Optimise anticoagulation therapy to ensure maximum reduction in stroke risk with minimum risk of bleeding as per current National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

What should you do?

  • If you have any of symptoms above contact your GP or Practice Nurse
  • An irregular pulse could be a sign that you have AF, feel your pulse at your wrist and if your pulse is irregular, see your GP or Practice Nurse.
  • If you are on medication for AF, take them as prescribed.

Marina Maxwell, Senior Primary Care Pharmacist for NHS Lewisham CCG, said: "If you have atrial fibrillation, you may have been prescribed a blood thinner – a common one is warfarin. It's important to take them as prescribed as they can significantly reduce your risk of having a stroke."

For more information about AF and stoke see the British Heart Foundation website.