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Why measuring your pulse can save lives

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Why measuring your pulse can save lives

A third of all people will experience a serious heart rhythm problem at some point in their life – most commonly due to atrial fibrillation, which is responsible for around a third of all strokes. However, one in three affected people does not even notice this flickering because it occurs without any symptoms.

But prevention is not difficult at all: measure your pulse regularly. Irregularities and a high heart rate quickly become noticeable. The major international rhythm societies from Europe, South America, Asia and the USA are now drawing attention to this with the first international World Pulse Day next Friday, March 1st. By the way, the date is no coincidence: “01/03” – because one in three people is at risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias.

Blood clots as a result

In atrial fibrillation, the blood flow in the atria slows down and can clot. “From there, blood clots can break off and, in the worst case, cause a stroke in the brain,” explains Primary Martin Martinek, head of cardiology at the Ordensklinikum Linz Elisabethinen.

The following applies here: “The earlier we can treat the arrhythmia, the higher the chances of recovery and fewer subsequent problems such as heart failure.”

Signs of an arrhythmia include irregular pulse, a stumbling sensation in the chest, shortness of breath during exertion, loss of performance and a feeling of restlessness in the body and chest. If these symptoms occur, you should go to your family doctor as quickly as possible. “First, an ECG is used to determine whether there is an irregularity. If this is the case, the symptoms should be clarified by a cardiologist using cardiac ultrasound, long-term ECG or event recorder,” says Martin Martinek.

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A third feel nothing at all

But what do you do if these symptoms are missing? “A third of patients with arrhythmias notice – as already mentioned – absolutely nothing about the dangerous disease. That’s why you should measure your pulse rate yourself once a day from the age of 65. If there are risk factors, you start earlier. This way you can tell whether the heart beats regularly or whether any irregularities should be clarified by a doctor. World Pulse Day is intended to draw attention to this topic.”

Which pulse is normal?

“Normal” is when an adult’s heart beats between 60 and 80 times per minute at rest. In addition to blood pressure monitors that can also detect and display your pulse and any irregularities, you can also easily measure yourself.
To do this, place two or three fingers on the wrist on the inside of the thumb, because that is where the pulse can best be felt. You should then observe for ten to 15 seconds whether the pulse rate is regular and normal and whether any irregularities occur.
“#takeyourpulse” is the name of the initiative, which encourages people to regularly test their pulse on their own wrist. “This simple measure for a few seconds a day costs nothing and we know from data from screening programs that it helps with early detection,” says Primar Martinek

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Author

Barbara Rohrhofer

Head of Life and Health Editorial Team

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Barbara Rohrhofer

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