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Pulse Check can Lower Risk of Second Stroke, Study Finds

Update Date: Jul 24, 2014 09:39 AM EDT

Stokes can be very dangerous because they can occur at any time and any place. Even though people cannot predict when they will suffer from a stroke, people can take active, preventive measures to reduce their chances. One of the biggest causes of stroke, especially for people who have already experienced one, is atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat condition. In a new study, researchers from Germany found that learning how to check one's own pulse can help lower future risk of stroke.

"Screening pulse is the method of choice for checking for irregular heartbeat for people over age 65 who have never had a stroke. Our study shows it may be a safe, effective, noninvasive and easy way to identify people who might need more thorough monitoring to prevent a second stroke," said study author Dr. Bernd Kallmunzer, of Erlangen University in Germany reported by HealthDay.

For this study, the team recruited 220 older individuals and taught them how to check their pulse. The researchers taught the participants the way to differentiate between a normal pulse and a fluttery abnormal one that could indicate atrial fibrillation. The participants had to be able to check their pulse correctly two times in a row. Overall, 196 people, or 89 percent, were capable of reading their pulse.

In order to double-check the participants' readings, the team had used an electrocardiogram. The results from the ECG monitor were hidden away from the participants. The researchers found that a total of 57 people had irregular heartbeats. The participants were capable of detecting the irregular rhythms 54 percent of the time. Their success rate with normal rhythms was 96. In roughly three percent of the time, the participants incorrectly identified atrial fibrillation.

The researchers also taught relatives of the participants how to check pulses. The relatives had a 77 percent success rate. The researchers stated that false positives during self-checks could pose a small problem. Patients who read their pulse incorrectly might become stressed or anxious about their heart health.

"There's very little downsides other than maybe the extra anxiety if you thought there was something as wrong if it wasn't," Dr. Ralph Sacco, chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Miami said according to NPR.

The study was published in the journal, Neurology.

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