Arrhythmia Alliance News & Events
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AF Association Global AF Aware Week: AF won't wait
The key message of this year’s Global AF Aware Week (16–22 November), which is run by the AF Association, is to remind people that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, they should still seek medical advice if they are concerned about having Atrial Fibrillation (AF) because “AF won’t wait”. The campaign comes after a recent study found that there was an increase in at-home acute cardiovascular deaths during the initial lockdown (in the UK). This finding led to concerns that people who are experiencing symptoms of serious cardiac conditions are avoiding going to hospital because of fears surrounding COVID-19.
It is unknown how many of these excess acute cardiovascular deaths were related to AF, but the AF Association believes AF is likely to have been a factor in at least some of them. According to the study, stroke was the most common cause of death. With 10% of all ischaemic strokes associated with previously undetected AF, it is to be expected that a proportion of the excess deaths reported in the study related to AF. Furthermore, if a person with AF does not receive anticoagulation, they may have a five-fold increased risk of stroke. Thus, with its Global AF Aware Week 2020 (GAFAW 2020) campaign, the AF Association is reminding people that AF requires urgent medical attention.
Trudie Lobban MBE, CEO of the AF Association, says: “We are urging those who are concerned about palpitations and possible AF not to put off seeking advice because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we understand that people may be worried about overwhelming the NHS or about contracting the virus, it is important to remember that the NHS is there to protect all patients, not only those with COVID-19, and remains open for business. Unfortunately, the implications of not seeking advice from your GP can be devastating for those with undiagnosed AF. Without anticoagulation therapies, people with AF are up to five times more likely to have a stroke than those without the condition.”
Additionally, AF Association is raising awareness — given the condition is sometimes asymptomatic — that a simple pulse check can also detect AF. “During Global AF Aware Week, we are also encouraging everyone to Know their Pulse to Know their Heart Rhythm through a simple 30-second pulse check. It is important that people not only count the number of beats but also check for a steady regular rhythm, as this may be an indicator of AF,” Trudie explains.
The AF Association recognises the current limitations with case finding AF in people at risk (those aged ≥65 years). For example, GPs may not be seeing patients for checks ups. However, the charity encourages healthcare professionals to raise awareness of AF and of the Know Your Pulse campaign on social media.