The UK Stroke Association is in the process of planning an awareness campaign around atrial fibrillation (AF) and its link to stroke. The campaign has three stated aims:
- to ensure that primary healthcare professionals (predominantly GPs and practice nurses) are screening, diagnosing and treating AF to optimum levels
- to raise awareness of AF as a risk factor for stroke amongst the public
- to lobby national policy makers for improvement in and better implementation of guidance around AF detection/treatment.
To raise public awareness, The Stroke Association will be organising advertising campaigns on the dangers of AF. A parliamentary reception is planned to spread awareness amongst and gain support from policymakers. It has also carried out a survey of 1,000 GPs to gauge clinical awareness levels of the link between the two conditions, and to ascertain their concerns over the current diagnosis, treatment and management of AF – the results will soon be published.
The Stroke Association, in collaboration with Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE), Atrial Fibrillation Association (AFA) and Sanofi-Aventis, have commissioned two research studies around AF in the past two years. They are also planning further research to identify remaining gaps in Europe-wide knowledge of AF.
According to Dr Peter Coleman, Deputy Director of Research for the Stroke Association, they are particularly interested in recent Lancet publications showing that patients exhibiting significant variability in their blood pressure may be at higher risk of stroke, and that certain blood pressure medications increase blood pressure variability. Speaking to the BJC, Dr Coleman said that the findings “are particularly applicable to people suffering from AF, as it may be that individuals suffering the combination of variable blood pressure and AF could be hugely at risk of stroke”.
The Association also recognises that the fast and reliable diagnosis of AF is a key area for future developments, and have had recent talks with a medical devices manufacturer regarding their wearable ECG monitors. The Stroke Association carries out regular testing of the public in their ‘Know Your Blood Pressure’ campaign, emphasising the importance of getting any palpitations checked by a healthcare professional, but appreciate that infrequent blood pressure monitoring and ECG is unlikely to pick up idiosyncratic AF and that a more focused intervention is required in people who suspect they have AF.
The BJC will be supporting these initiatives. The journal is introducing a Heart and Brain Forum, which will provide educational activities and publish regular articles and series on all aspects of stroke prevention, in tandem with the Stroke Association.