How clued up are you about heart health?
If you believe everything you read in certain magazines and newspapers, we’re a nation of kale-eating health fanatics. But when it comes to heart health many of us are in the dark suggests a survey by AFIB Matters, a campaign developed by the European Heart Rhythm Association of the European Society of Cardiology.
The survey of 2,500 British adults reveals just over half of people have poor knowledge of basic heart health:
- Four in 10 Brits think 30 minutes of exercise a week is enough to keep your heart healthy (only 28 per cent know the correct answer is 150 minutes a week)
- Only a quarter of people realise a healthy blood pressure reading is more than 120/90 and less than 140/90 (42 per cent said a reading of 90/60 is healthy, with one in 10 believing healthy blood pressure is 140/90 or higher).
- Most Brits are aware that having a body mass index (BMI) score of 20 means their weight is healthy. But 18 per cent think a BMI score of 25 is also healthy, and 11 per cent said if your BMI was 32 you don’t need to lose weight (according to the NHS if your BMI is between 25 and 29.9 you’re in the overweight range, and if it’s between 30 and 39.9 you’re in the obese range).
- Only half of British people are aware of atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate – plus potentially heart failure or stroke – despite the fact that it affects an estimated 1.5 million people in the UK.
- Almost a third don’t know that atrial fibrillation can happen to people of any age (23 per cent said it only occurs in people over the age of 70).
Eight things you should know about atrial fibrillation
If you’re not familiar with atrial fibrillation, here are some basic facts that could help put you in the picture:
- A normal heart rate is regular and between 60 – 100 beats a minute while you’re resting.
- If your heartbeat is irregular, or if it’s faster than 100 beats a minute, these could be signs of atrial fibrillation, especially when combined with other symptoms such as dizziness and shortness of breath. Some people, however, may have atrial fibrillation without any symptoms.
- If you have atrial fibrillation you have an increased risk of having a stroke. In extreme cases the condition can also lead to heart failure.
- Atrial fibrillation may come and go or it can be continuous. Permanent atrial fibrillation is when you have symptoms constantly.
- If you have other conditions such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) or a heart valve problem you may have a higher risk of atrial fibrillation.
- The condition can also be triggered by things like drinking too much alcohol or smoking. Obesity also increases your risk of atrial fibrillation, as does having obstructive sleep apnoea, which can make you gasp for air or stop breathing while you’re asleep.
- Atrial fibrillation can affect anyone of any age but it’s more common in people aged 65 and older. It’s also more common in men than in women.
- Atrial fibrillation isn’t usually life threatening but it often requires treatment, such as taking medicines that help prevent a stroke or medicines that help control your heart rate or heart rhythm.
If you’ve noticed a change in your heartbeat but you’re not sure it’s a sign of atrial fibrillation, have a chat with your local Careway pharmacist. They can refer you to your GP for tests if necessary and put your mind at ease if you’re worried.
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