Thousands at risk of stroke

Pamela Ballantine takes the AF test with Hannah Williamson, Senior Health and Wellbeing Officer, NICHS
Pamela Ballantine takes the AF test with Hannah Williamson, Senior Health and Wellbeing Officer, NICHS

Local charity, Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS), in partnership with retailer MACE, have launched a new awareness campaign highlighting the risk of stroke for people who have Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

AF is a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate and this can increase your risk of stroke by five times.

In Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon alone, more than 3,700 people are living with the condition – but there could be many many more undetected.

Research carried out by NICHS found that 70% of people surveyed did not know what AF was. Equally concerning was the fact that only 30 people in every 1000 know that it can increase your risk of stroke by five times.

This awareness campaign is aimed at educating the public around what AF is, its links to stroke, and prompting anyone who thinks they might have the symptoms, to take the AF on-the-spot test at an NICHS ‘Well-Check’ or contact their GP.

Anyone can have AF, but the people most susceptible tend to be over 50, have diabetes, hyper-tension, or high blood pressure. Both men and women are just

as likely to have the condition – so it’s important that anyone knows they can take a simple test to find out. If you are found to have the condition it may be

possible to hugely reduce the risk of stroke through medication.

Local personality and broadcaster Pamela Ballantine commented: “I am really surprised how quick and easy the AF test is and would highly recommend

everyone take it. Strokes associated with AF sufferers can be very serious with devasting outcomes – let’s support this campaign and encourage as many

people as possible to get checked out.” Fidelma Carter, Public Health Director, at NICHS said the campaign was needed now more than ever: “The fact that 7 out of 10 of us have never heard of Atrial Fibrillation is cause for concern. We encourage everyone to find out more about AF and most importantly to book in for a Well Check with us. The test for AF only takes a minute and involves simply placing your fingers on a small pad.

If you know someone who is older and diabetic – ask them if they have ever heard of AF – you could save their life.”

Claire Rea, Assistant Brand Manager, at MACE commented: “We’re delighted at MACE to support NICHS in raising awareness of Atrial Fibrillation. We would

encourage everyone to take the AF test, and to keep an eye out for fundraising events for NICHS at your local MACE store.”

Find out more about Atrial Fibrillation at Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke’s website at www.nichs.org.uk