Blackrock Clinic News Know Your Pulse Campaign: 79 people assessed during atrial fibrillation week in November 2013

Know Your Pulse Campaign: 79 people assessed during atrial fibrillation week in November 2013

19th Dec 2013

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF) is a type of rapid or irregular heartbeat.  This is caused when the top chambers of the heart (the atria) quiver (fibrillate) erratically, sometimes faster than 200 times per minute.

The condition can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life.  Atrial Fibrillation can also increase the risk of stroke fivefold because blood pools in the atria of the heart and clots may form. These clots may then be carried to the brain, causing stroke.

The condition is particularly common in people over the age of 60.  Because it often displays no symptoms, it can be difficult for people to know that they have it.  However, it can be managed successfully with the help of a healthcare professional.  Knowing about and properly managing Atrial Fibrillation can prevent a patient from having a stroke.


More than 4.5 million people living in the European Union are affected by Atrial Fibrillation, and worldwide, every 15 seconds somebody suffers an AF-related stroke.  A significant percentage of strokes related to Atrial Fibrillation can be prevented.

In November we urged visitors to Blackrock Clinic to ‘Know your Pulse’.  We placed a senior cardiology nurse in the Atrium of the Hospital to take pulses of interested visitors.  She also chatted through the importance of pulse awareness in indicating an abnormal heart rate or rhythm.


  • It is a good idea to try taking your pulse at various points throughout the day (before and after various activities).
  • Your pulse rate will change during the day depending on what activity you are doing.  This is normal.
  • To get your baseline pulse and normal rhythm, try taking your resting pulse when you wake in the morning and before going to bed.

Know your Pulse in Four Steps:

1.  To assess your resting pulse rate in your wrist, sit down for 5 minutes beforehand.  Remember that any stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine taken before the reading will affect the rate.  You will need a watch or clock with a second hand.

2.  Take off your watch and hold your left or right hand out with your palm facing up and your elbow slightly bent.

3.  With your other hand, place your index and middle fingers on your wrist, at the base of your thumb.  Your fingers should sit between the bone on the edge of your wrist and the stringy tendon attached to your thumb.  You may need to move your fingers around a little to find the pulse.  Keep firm pressure on your wrist with your fingers in order to feel your pulse.

4.  Count for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 to get your heart rate in beats per minute.  If your heart rhythm is irregular, you should count for 1 minute and do not multiply.

Many patients are not aware that they are living with Atrial Fibrillation or the risks involved.  Some patients have likened Atrial Fibrillation to drums beating, thunder rolling or fish flopping in their chest.