Joining forces to tackle heart condition

4 August 2016

Last week, Hauora Tairāwhiti teamed up with the Heart Foundation and Waikato Cardiologist Martin Stiles to raise awareness of atrial fibrillation. Gisborne Hospital staff and visitors were offered free pulse checks to assess their heart rhythm. Nearly 50 people were checked and four were referred for a follow-up ECG (electrocardiograph) two being members of the public and two staff members.


Tracy Low Cardiac Rehabilitation Nurse Hauora Tairawhiti, Dr

From left to right; Tracy Low Cardiology Clinical Nurse Specialist Hauora Tairawhiti, Dr Martin Stiles Cardiologist from Waikato DHB, Kerrin Nalder Heart Health Advocate Heart Foundation.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common type of irregular heart rhythm that causes poor blood flow to the body. Those of us with AF often suffer from an irregular and/or fast heartbeat. Even though AF is not generally life-threatening, people with it are up to five times more likely to have a stroke.

It is New Zealand’s fastest-growing forms of heart disease, affecting about four in every 100 people aged over 65. Our aging population means AF is becoming only more prevalent.

Common causes of AF are not always clear but people are more likely to develop AF if they have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Aged over 65 years old
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart pumping problems
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart muscle disorders
  • Heart valve disease
  • Lung infections such as pneumonia
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnoea
  • High alcohol intake

Some people have no symptoms and only realise they have AF when visiting the doctor or, in some cases, not until after they have had a stroke. 

Others may have symptoms like:

  • Breathlessness or difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness, light-headedness or feeling faint
  • Feeling your heart racing
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Chest discomfort
  • Difficulty exercising

AF can be effectively managed by medication, depending on what type of AF you have, how long you’ve had it and any other health conditions you may have. Your doctor will be able to discuss the risks and benefits of each option and advise you on what would best suit you. 

For more information about AF please visit the Heart Foundation's website or contact the local Heart Foundation branch on 06 8685890.