Heart health: Know your pulse
- By Colleen Bowring
- June 17, 2022 4:07 pm
Recently, heart health risk checks have been in the media thanks to the ‘Know your pulse’ campaign from the Heart Foundation. Our Director of Nursing, Colleen Bowring explains why heart health is so important.
The truth is that the earlier we begin to take notice of how well our heart is functioning, the better it is for our health. Because, as we start to age, it’s essential to take care of our heart health. By doing this, we can help to reduce our risk of heart disease and strokes.
And the good news is that there are some easy ways to get to know how your heart is doing. By learning these simple heart health checks, we can lower the risk of heart disease and help our whānau improve their heart health.
Know your pulse. Every beat tells a story. Know your pulse, Know your whakapapa
Every time your heart beats, it sends a wave of blood rushing around your body. You can feel this pulse on your wrist.
Here’s how to take your pulse.
Your pulse can tell you a lot about the health of your heart. As you take your pulse, check for these things:
- Does your pulse have a regular steady rhythm?
- Is your heartbeat irregular? Is it jumping around or missing a beat?
- How fast is your heart beating? 60 -100 beats a minute at rest is normal. Athletes may have a heart rate under 60.
There are lots of reasons why your pulse may be fast or irregular. Things like caffeine, the nicotine in cigarettes, recreational drugs and some medicines can affect the rate. Emotions like excitement, fear and anxiety also make your heart beat faster.
However, if often your pulse feels too fast or your heart is racing when you are at rest, it’s essential to see your doctor. Also, if you think your pulse is missing or adding a beat, it is good to have a check-up.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) awareness
Atrial fibrillation is a common type of irregular heartbeat and it’s important you have awareness of anything unusual. Even if your symptoms are mild, you should always get any heart concerns checked out. That’s because atrial Fibrillation can increase your risk of having a stroke or developing heart failure, a condition when your heart has difficulty pumping.
Common signs of atrial fibrillation may include irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath and fatigue. In addition, you may feel like your heart is racing for quite long periods of time. Other symptoms could be the feeling that your heart is fluttering, thudding or pounding in your ears. You may also feel dizzy.
Where to get Heart Health Risk Checks for yourself of Whānau (and why an ECG is a good start)
Unsurprisingly if you have a family history of heart disease, do not delay getting any of these symptoms checked out by your doctor. Your GP will start by doing tests like an Electrocardiogram (or ECG), a quick and painless tracing of the electrical activity of your heart. It will show any irregular activity in your heartbeat.
If more tests or treatments are required, you will find that our experienced doctors will explain everything. They will also prescribe medicine to manage your symptoms and reduce your stroke risk. Naturally, if you need more support we can recommend you to some great cardiologists who can investigate further.
Our resident GP with special interest in long term health conditions and heart health expert, Dr Nalini Kohlhagen says: “Understandably, being diagnosed with heart disease can be frightening. Our friendly staff at Ormiston Medical are here to support you. Not only will we treat your condition, but we will teach you to help yourself. We run health and wellbeing workshops, at which you learn how to look after yourself better.”
At what age should you get a Heart Health Check with a GP? (and what is your risk profile?)
You might be surprised to hear that Heart checks may need to start earlier than you think.
- if you are Maori, Pacifica or South Asian, all men over 30 and women over 40 should start your heart screening as we do see a higher risk for you.
- People with severe mental illness should start at age 25, as mental health can be connected to heart health.
- If you have a genetic family history of heart conditions or other known risk factors like developing Diabetes, screening is a good idea. So, if you are a male aged 35 or a female aged 45, make an appointment time for a check. It’s also good to know that people with Diabetes should have annual checks from the year of diagnosis.
- If you don’t have any known risk factors, then start from 45 for men and 55 for women as part of this screening, your doctor will check your Blood Pressure, weight and cholesterol levels and look out for any signs of diabetes.
The best thing you can do at home to help your heart health is to KNOW YOUR PULSE.
Get to know your pulse by popping in for a quick appointment with our team. Make a booking on the Patient Portal or sign up today if you are a new patient. It’s easy and only takes a few minutes to get started. Having atrial fibrillation awareness is your best bet in protecting your heart health, so if you have any concerns, do get in touch. There’s lot of information on the Heart Foundation website.