Have you got your finger on your pulse?
Commemorating World Heart Rhythm Week (7 – 13 June), Tygerberg and Groote Schuur Hospitals, centres of global cardiovascular excellence, are raising awareness and promoting better understanding of heart rhythm disorders or arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats).
An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm and it means your heart is either too fast, too slow, or your heart is in a rhythm that is not arising from your normal heart’s sinus pacemaker. Measurement of your pulse rate can be a useful pointer to an underlying arrhythmia. If your pulse rate is unusually or unexpectedly fast or slow (<50bpm or > 100bpm), this can be a sign of an underlying arrhythmia. A simple pulse check only takes 30 seconds to complete and it could save your life.
“One of the most frequently encountered abnormal rhythms, called atrial fibrillation, can cause a deterioration in the pump function of the heart and carries a stroke risk. In a recent survey of patients visiting Tygerberg Hospital with an indication for an electrocardiogram (ECG) atrial fibrillation was detected in 3 to 4 out of every hundred patients screened,” says Prof Anton Doubell from the SUNHEART Electrophysiology service of Stellenbosch University located in Tygerberg Hospital.
In the last 12 months, Groote Schuur Hospital has provided care to many arrhythmia patients. “We admit around 3-5 patients a week for elective procedures (cardiac ablation procedures and pacemakers); we implant around 200 pacemakers (a small device used to treat some arrhythmias) per year; and we perform around 100-150 cardiac ablation procedures (used to restore a normal heart rhythm) per year,” says Prof Ashley Chin, who works in the Department of Cardiology/Electrophysiology at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Consulting your healthcare worker or doctor at a clinic or day hospital to have an ECG performed may be needed to confirm an arrhythmia. The doctor will assess their risk factors for stroke, and if increased, may prescribe a blood thinner to reduce the risk of stroke. Patients need to be aware of arrhythmia symptoms like palpitations, blackouts, dizziness and need to present to a healthcare facility urgently so that these symptoms can be assessed.
Byron la Hoe
Cell: 072 368 0596