pharmacists planning service, inc. 

For Immediate Release


San Rafael, California - Pharmacists Planning Service Inc.'s (PPSI's) Pharmacy Council on Sroke Prevention and Cardiovascular Disease is joining forces with the National Stroke Association to increase awareness of stroke prevention by focusing on one of the leading risk factors for stroke, atrial fibrillation (AF), during National Stroke Awareness Month this May.

AF is a relatively common yet little known abnormal heart condition in which the atria (upper chambers of the heart) beat out of rhythm with the rest of the heart, often causing blood to pool, allowing clots to form. These clots can break loose and travel to the brain causing a stroke.

Fifteen percent of all strokes that occur each year are caused by AF. According to the ongoing Framingham Heart Study, stroke risk for people with AF dramatically increases with age. A study of 81 men with an average age of 72, indicated that those with AF tended to perform more poorly on tests of memory compared to those with normal heart arrhythmia according to a report in the September 1998 issue of the "Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry".

The Pharmacy Council on Stroke Prevention and Cardiovascular Disease and NSA are encouraging people to take charge of their health and learn the new self-screening technique for an irregular pulse, which is a symptom of AF. Researchers from CGF Health System developed the technique and organized a nationwide, controlled study of 178 adults, which found that 76% of study participants could easily and quickly screen themselves to determine if they have an irregular pulse. In the study, trained instructors taught participants how to find their own pulse and then identify the difference between a regular and an irregular one.

"Most Americans are unaware of the potentially life-threatening link between atrial fibrillation and stroke" said Frederick Munschauer, M.D., Director of the Vascular Disease Prevention Research Center at Buffalo General Hospital, CGF Health System. "This new self-screening technique for atrial fibrillation is so simple, almost everyone can do it. It just takes seconds to do something that may save your life."

To properly self-screen for AF, individuals should place the first two fingers of their right hand on their left wrist. They then should check their pulse for a regular or irregular heartbeat. A regular heartbeat is characterized by a series of even, continuous pulsations, whereas an irregular heartbeat often feels like an extra or missed heartbeat. Individuals can determine the steadiness of their heartbeat rhythm by tapping their foot to keep time.

This self-screening technique must be performed properly in order to obtain correct results and should not be considered a substitute for consulting with a physician. If you are having difficulty locating your pulse or performing the screening technique, you may want to discuss your concerns with your physician.

All adults, especially older adults who are at greatest risk for stroke, should check their pulse regularly to see if it is regular or irregular and visit their physician if they suspect their heartbeat might be irregular.

Treatments for AF include cardioversion (restoration of the heart's rhythm to normal by electrical countershock), and certain medications. An anticoagulant such as warfarin (brand name Coumadin) prevents the blood from developing dangerous clots and is used to reduce the risk of the type of stroke associated with AF. The most common adverse event and serious risk of oral anticoagulation therapy with warfarin is bleeding in any tissue or organ.

During National Stroke Awareness Month, several activities will be held including extensive national efforts to promote the self-screening technique for an irregular pulse and increased awareness of AF through community events such as stroke screenings and health fairs. Health organizations nationwide will be encouraged to teach the self-screening technique to members of their community.

The Pharmacy Council on Stroke Prevention and Cardiovascular Disease is conducting the following events to raise awareness about stroke prevention and AF locally in May:

1.   Distribution of posters, pamphlets and literature to the pharmacy profession.

2.   Education program at the Annual American Pharmaceutical Association's Annual Meeting.

3.   Three hour continuing education program entitled "Update on Stroke and Coronary Artery Disease Risk Factors" at the National Pharmaceutical Association Annual Meeting

4.   A special media campaign on Strike Out Stroke through pharmacies around the country.

National Stroke Association is the only independent national non-profit organization focusing 100% of its efforts and resources on all aspects of stroke, including prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for stroke survivors.

For information on stroke, contact the National Stroke Association at 1 800 STROKES. For more information on local activities call: The Pharmacy Council on Stroke Prevention and Cardiovascular Disease at 415 479-8628.

Contact: Frederick S. Mayer, RPh, MPH
Telephone 415 479-8628
Fax 415 479-8608

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