Why check your pulse?

Croí are encouraging people to have their pulse checked to screen for Atrial Fibrillation-one of the major causes of stroke and heart failure.

What is a normal pulse?

The pulse, usually called the heart rate is the number of times the heart beats in one minute – normally between 60 and 100 beats per minute. A pulse rate varies from person to person and is generally lower at rest and increases with exertion.

The easiest place to feel your pulse is on the thumb side of your wrist- called the radial pulse, and should be regular, meaning the same space between each beat. However there are various reasons why your pulse may be slower or faster which include: your age, medications, caffeine intake, level of fitness, heart conditions, Atrial Fibrillation, stress and anxiety.

Having your pulse checked regularly when you attend your GP or practice nurse is recommended especially as you get older.

Seek advice if you feel:

  • Your heart is racing some or most of the time.
  • Your pulse is slow.
  • Your pulse may be irregular or is jumping around.

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

The heart has an electrical system, which provides signals to the four chambers of the heart indicating when they should squeeze or relax- allowing blood to be pumped around the body.

Atrial Fibrillation, (AF) is caused by chaotic electrical signals, which make the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) quiver or fibrillate instead of contracting properly. During AF, blood can pool in the top chambers of the heart, which can allow a clot to form. If a blood clot breaks free, it may enter the blood stream and cause a stroke.

Some people are in this rhythm for a long time before it is detected and for some, they go in and out of this irregular rhythm.

What are the symptoms?

Many people with AF do not have any symptoms and some are very aware that their heart is beating differently. Common symptoms include tiredness, a faster than normal or irregular heart beat, dizziness or shortness of breath.

Why is it so important to screen for Atrial Fibrillation?

The risk of having a stroke is five times higher in people with Atrial Fibrillation, so it’s important for AF to be detected as it can be treated and managed with medications and hospital procedures if necessary. Stroke prevention in the form of blood thinners is an important part of the management of this irregular heart rhythm.

Croí Nurse Team