Pamela Ballantine tests for AF at the annual Balmoral Show

Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Communications and Marketing Manager Gillian Parker pictured with local personality and broadcaster Pamela Ballantine and Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Senior Health and Wellbeing Officer Hannah Williamson.
Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Communications and Marketing Manager Gillian Parker pictured with local personality and broadcaster Pamela Ballantine and Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Senior Health and Wellbeing Officer Hannah Williamson.

Local charity, Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS), in partnership with local retailer MACE and proudly supported by Pamela Ballantine, launched a new awareness campaign – highlighting the major risk of stroke for people who have Atrial Fibrillation, or AF, which increases your risk of stroke by five times.

AF is a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate. Almost 40,000 people have already been diagnosed in Northern Ireland but, according to NICHS, there could be thousands more living with the condition undetected.

Research carried out by NICHS found that 70% of people surveyed did not know what AF was. Equally concerning was the fact that only 30 people in every 1000 know that it can increase your risk of stroke by five times.

This awareness campaign is aimed at educating the public around what AF is, its links to stroke, and prompting anyone who thinks they might have the symptoms, to take the AF on-the-spot test at an NICHS ‘Well-Check’ or contact their GP.

Anyone can have AF, but the people most susceptible tend to be over 50, have diabetes, hyper-tension, or high blood pressure. Both men and women are just as likely to have the condition – so it’s important that anyone knows they can take a simple test to find out. If you are found to have the condition it may be possible to hugely reduce the risk of stroke through medication.

Local personality and broadcaster Pamela Ballantine caught up with the NICHS team at Balmoral to show her support and take the test: “I am really surprised how quick and easy the AF test is and would highly recommend everyone take it. Strokes associated with AF sufferers can be very serious with devastating outcomes – let’s support this campaign and encourage as many people as possible to get checked out.”

Fidelma Carter, Public Health Director, at NICHS said the campaign was needed now more than ever: “The fact that seven out of 10 of us have never heard of Atrial Fibrillation is cause for concern. We encourage everyone to find out more about AF and most importantly to book in for a Well Check with us. The test for AF only takes a minute and involves simply placing your fingers on a small pad. If you know someone who is older and diabetic – ask them if they have ever heard of AF – you could save their life.”

Claire Rea, Assistant Brand Manager, at MACE commented: “We’re delighted at MACE to support NICHS in raising awareness of Atrial Fibrillation. We would encourage everyone to take the AF test, and to keep an eye out for fundraising events for NICHS at your local MACE store.”

Find out more about Atrial Fibrillation at Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke’s website at www.nichs.org.uk