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Atrial Fibrillation – all you need to know

Atrial Fibrillation, also known as AF, is the topic for the next Talking About Medicines koha class at the Raglan House on Saturday, November 4.

Fiona McNabb, a cardiology specialist clinical pharmacist with many years of experience at Waikato Hospital will host a discussion about how the heart works, what happens for AF to develop, what you can do to reduce the risks of AF and how the medicines used to treat AF work.

About one in every 25 people over 65 and one in every 10 people over 85 have AF, making it the most common type of disordered heart rhythm. According to the Heart Foundation, the number of people in New Zealand with AF is about 46,000.

AF often develops naturally as we age, but can also occur at younger ages. In some cases, previous damage to the heart, an over active thyroid, diabetes, and even a family history of AF can increase the risk of developing AF. Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, not just in coffee but also in energy drinks, can be triggers for AF.

Many people with AF hardly notice any symptoms and others may feel “palpitations” or a “racing” heart beat. When the heart’s rhythm gets out of order, the usual pumping functions become inefficient and blood supply to the body is reduced. People with AF may feel breathless, dizzy, very low in energy and may experience chest tightness when their heart is out of normal ‘sinus’ rhythm.

AF can come and go, known as “paroxysmal”, be more persistent, or even permanently out of rhythm. Besides the symptoms of tiredness and shortness of breath, AF also raises the risk of clots forming which in turn raises the risk of strokes or other events caused by clots blocking blood vessels.

Some lifestyle changes can help minimise the triggers for AF but medicines play important roles in helping control heart rate and reducing the risk of clots forming.

Over the last few months, Fiona has hosted two other discussions about heart failure and heart attacks at the Raglan House. Discussions have been lively, with lots of time for questions and plenty of feedback that the classes have been ‘very informative’, ‘explained in a way I could understand’ and ‘very helpful as not all can be explained in a short GP appointment’.

If you have been diagnosed with AF, have someone in your family or whanau with AF or are just interested in things to do with the heart, this presentation will have plenty in it for you. Saturday, November 4, from 10am – 12 noon. Contact Fiona on 027 688 9754 if you would like to reserve a seat or ask any questions.