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Heart Rhythm Week a lifesaver

New Zealand pharmacists may have saved six lives by checking pulses for Heart Rhythm Week in June.

New Zealand pharmacists may have saved six lives by checking pulses for Heart Rhythm Week in June. From 12 to 16 June, 21 participating pharmacies around New Zealand offered free pulse checks to clients to check for atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition where patients have an irregular heartbeat. People with AF may not realise they have it as it has few other symptoms, but those who do are at higher risk of stroke and heart failure. Participating clients are asked to sign a consent form, then a staff member conducts a brief online questionnaire aimed at identifying risk factors with them, before checking their pulse. If an irregular, or unnaturally high or low, pulse is detected, the patient will be referred to a doctor. During the week, the pharmacists screened 91 patients and found six with irregular heatbeats who were referred to doctors. Only one response has been recorded from these referrals so far, which was a dose reduction of a beta-blocker because of bradycardia. At least one irregular pulse was detected on the first day of testing.

Sue Ross, the owner of Hollings Care Plus Pharmacy in west Auckland, found a regular customer, a man in his 70s, had an irregular pulse – something that had gone undetected for his whole life. Ms Ross was initially sceptical about getting involved in Heart Rhythm Week and the extra time it might take to do the pulse checks. But now she has been doing it, she is quite enthusiastic about the concept and plans to keep on doing the checks after the week has ended.

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