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Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!

CHSS Advice Line nurse Laura Hastings, July 2013.

Guest blogger: Laura Hastings, CHSS Lead Advice Line Nurse

March 19, 2017

There are over 96,000 Scots who currently have a heart condition called Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and others who have the condition and don’t yet know it.

What is AF (Atrial Fibrillation)?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition that causes a fast and irregular heart rate. Having AF makes it five times more likely that you could have a stroke, which could have a significant impact on your work and your home life.  Lifestyle changes may help to prevent AF and can help to manage AF if you get diagnosed.

Your heart rate should be regular and between 60 and 100 beats a minute when you’re resting. You can measure your heart rate by feeling the pulse in your wrist.

This informative video shows you how to check your pulse. If the video doesn’t play, you can watch it here:  

See your GP if you think you may have AF

The symptoms of AF include:

However sometimes AF doesn’t cause any symptoms so it is important to check your pulse or have your heart rate monitored by a health professional.

One of the CHSS Health Promotion Specialists can check your heart rate in your workplace within minutes, using a hand-held AliveCor Kardia Mobile ECG (see picture).  If AF is detected, a reading can be emailed to your GP for further investigation.

There are seven main factors which put you at risk:

  • Age – AF can affect adults of any age, but it becomes more common as you get older
  • Gender – more men are affected than women
  • Genetics – having a close relative with AF, such as a parent, brother or sister
  • High blood pressure
  • Other conditions – diabetes, heart or lung disease
  • Weight – being overweight or obese
  • Lifestyle – unhealthy diet and insufficient physical activity

What can you do to reduce your risk?

  • Get regular physical activity
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet, low in salt, saturated fats, trans fats and sugar
  • Manage high blood pressure
  • Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine
  • Don’t smoke
  • Control cholesterol
  • Maintain a healthy weight

For further information about each of these risk factors, read our factsheets and booklets.

You should make an appointment to see your GP if:

  • You notice a sudden change in your heartbeat
  • Your pulse is consistently lower than 60 or above 100 beats per minute (especially if you are also experiencing any of the symptoms of AF above)

See your GP as soon as possible if you have chest pain.

For further information see the CHSS factsheet Understanding Atrial Fibrillation.

Or contact the CHSS Advice Line nurses on: Freephone 0808 801 0899 or email

***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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