Pulse monitor to spot potential stroke victims

London, Jan 17 (IANS) A type of heartbeat that raises stroke risk five-fold can be spotted with a novel blood pressure monitor, according to British researchers.

It identifies atrial fibrillation - the commonest kind of irregular beats - responsible for one in four strokes.

Up to two million people, largely elderly, have atrial fibrillation (AF). That causes blood to linger in a heart chamber, forming clots that can then be pushed into arteries and get stuck, resulting in a stroke. Every year some 12,500 people suffer AF-related strokes.

But if diagnosed, people can reduce their chance of stroke by taking blood-thinning drugs. However, although it can cause dizziness, palpitations and shortness of breath, hundreds of thousands do not know they have it as they have no symptoms.

Of the two million estimated by the Atrial Fibrillation Association to have it, some 600,000 are undiagnosed in Britain alone, the Telegraph reports.

Carole Longson, professor at the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, London, said the device "could increase the detection rate of AF compared with taking the pulse by hand. The guidance is not about screening for AF, but about the benefits that the device offers in helping to pick up AF by chance in being with suspected high blood pressure."

Clare Walton of the Stroke Association said: "Unfortunately not everyone who has AF will know they have it, yet we know that around 4,500 strokes each year could be prevented if AF patients received appropriate treatment."

"A blood pressure testing machine that can detect an irregular pulse will help identify more people with AF and in turn enable them to receive medication to reduce their risk of stroke," Walton added.