World Heart Rhythm Week

World Heart Rhythm Week, from 7-13 June, is the annual awareness-raising event run by the Arrhythmia Alliance and designed to raise health and wellbeing awareness of and knowledge about detecting, diagnosing and treating arrhythmias, or irregular heart rhythms.

The NHS estimates there are around two million people in the UK living with conditions such as atrial fibrillation (where the heart beats irregularly and sometimes faster), bradycardia (where it beats more slowly), supraventricular tachycardia (where it beats abnormally fast) and others.

While, if properly diagnosed, these conditions can be treated and lived with, untreated they can be killers. The Stroke Association for example, estimates one million people in the UK have atrial fibrillation (AF), and that, as the risk of stroke if five times greater for people with AF, it contributes to one in five strokes.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) points out that, because AF can be asymptomatic (in other words have no visible symptoms), it can often go undiagnosed. The charity estimates there are some 300,000 people in the UK who are living with the condition but oblivious to it, and the number could be as high as 1.6 million. British Heart Rhythm Society (formerly known as Heart Rhythm UK) is dedicated to improving all aspects of arrhythmia care and electrical device based therapies along with acting as a unifying focus for those professionals involved.

Arrhythmias can cause sudden cardiac death, and the NHS estimates that, tragically, 100,000 people die from this in the UK every year, yet some of these deaths could have been avoided if the arrhythmia had been spotted and treated earlier.

How to take your pulse

At rest, hold your left or right hand out with the palm facing up and your elbow slightly bent. With your other hand, place your index and middle fingers on your wrist at the base of the thumb, pressing gently on bone and stringy tendon at the edge of the wrist, just below the thumb.

Once you can feel a heartbeat, press down, hold and count how many beats occur in 30 seconds (you'll need a watch with a second hand for this). To get your heart rate in beats per minute then simply multiple by two.
The BHF, for example, highlights that a normal resting heart rate will be between 60-100 beats per minute, but can go up to 130-150 per minute when you're exercising.

The good news is that, once diagnosed, there are various drugs, treatments and procedures that can be used to treat or control an arrhythmia.