ABOUT half a million Australians live with atrial fibrillation - referred to as AF, or irregular heartbeat - putting them at five times the risk of a life-threatening stroke.
AF awareness and advocacy group Hearts4Heart is urging Australians not to forgo testing for irregular heartbeat because of COVID-19 restrictions and distancing measures.
It has got behind a new smartphone app - Feel the Beat - as a simple way to identify an irregular heartbeat.
Hearts4Heart chief executive Tanya Hall said the app would be a game changer at a time when on-site testing wasn't possible due to the global pandemic.
"By creating the app we hope we can raise awareness about the dangers of undetected AF and get people checking their heart rate and speaking to their doctor about an irregular heartbeat," she said.
An untreated irregular heartbeat can cause blood to pool in a chamber of the heart, forming a clot which can travel to the brain.
Scary fact: Some 6000 atrial fibrillation-related strokes occur each year.
The free app asks you to answer a few questions before checking your heart rate by placing a finger over your phone's camera lens.
The app predicts the risk of developing atrial fibrillation over the next five years. While it's a useful tool, as many people with atrial fibrillation may not experience any obvious symptoms, it is certainly no substitute for seeing a doctor.
But if it makes you more aware of that essential beat, it has to be worthwhile.
The prevalence of AF increases with age, so it is recommended people over 65 or with existing heart conditions do routine heart rate checks.
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