Healthy living

Two thirds of people fail to recognise stroke warning sign

Two thirds of people fail to recognise stroke warning sign World Stroke Day 2011

Two thirds of people older people are unaware that an irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation, is a major risk factor for stroke, according to a survey.

Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common heart rhythm disturbances seen by doctors, affecting approximately 750,000 people in the UK alone.

However, a survey of more than 2,000 people carried out for the Stroke Association to mark World Stroke Day on 29 October found that just a third of people aged 65 and over recognised that AF could lead to a stroke.

The most common symptom of AF is a fast and irregular heartbeat, usually over 140 beats a minute. Other symptoms include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, light headedness, fainting or fatigue.

Steve Benveniste of the Stroke Association said: "Atrial fibrillation increases your risk of stroke by up to five times and around 12,500 strokes a year are thought to be directly linked to the condition.

"It's worrying that such a significant proportion of people over the age of 65 are unaware of the link between AF and stroke, especially because they are more likely than any other age group to develop the heart condition.

"If you have experienced any of the symptoms or are at all worried about your risk, it is vital that you speak to your GP and arrange to get your pulse checked."

A stroke can happen when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, and is caused by a clot or bleeding in the brain.

Stroke is the UK's third biggest killer after heart disease and cancer and the biggest single cause of severe disability. Each year around 150,000 people in the UK will have a stroke.

ITV Daybreak's Dr Hilary Jones said: "We know that atrial fibrillation is a major risk factor for stroke. The condition causes your heart to beat irregularly and less efficiently meaning that blood clots are more likely to form which could cause a stroke if they travel to the brain.

"However, AF can be quickly and easily diagnosed and treatment options are available to reduce your risk of stroke. It is therefore very important for anyone concerned about their heartbeat to visit their GP for a pulse check."

This article was published on Fri 28 October 2011

Image © James Steidl -

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