Atrial fibrillation

Increasing public awareness about atrial fibrillation

Making people more aware of the symptoms of atrial fibrillation (AF) can help with early diagnosis and treatment, thus reducing the risk of stroke. We asked people whether they thought there should be more public awareness of AF and how this could be achieved.
People we talked to described a lack of awareness of atrial fibrillation (AF) in the community. As Elisabeth X observed, ‘most people don’t know anything about it unless they have it or a relation who has’. Although some felt there was no reason to increase awareness, others disagreed, believing that the public should be made more aware of AF as early detection can prevent strokes. Eileen felt the reluctance to display information about AF in doctors’ surgeries was short-sighted: ‘stroke is the biggest problem and there are a lot of people who don’t know they’ve got it. I think it should be as aware as heart attacks and probably cancer’. Glyn suggested a media campaign to raise awareness of AF which he believes is ‘non-existent’ but despite writing to radio stations ‘they don’t seem to be interested’.
Alongside increased media coverage, people we spoke to suggested other ways to promote awareness of AF, including leaflets in GP surgeries (some people talked of giving their GP posters which were never displayed); information in health magazines, well woman or man clinics; educational programmes in schools which teach children how to take their pulse; articles in newspapers; possible incorporation in TV soaps; and more pulse checking by GPs and through roadshows. Chris X gave an account of his experience of misdiagnosis of AF to a parliamentary group. Most felt that a widespread campaign was unnecessary, however.

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