Cafe with Heart- Terry Quinn

Cafe with heart returned in April for a discussion on atrial fibrillation (AF) with Dr Terry Quinn speaking to a full Waterstones café. The event was very well received with around 1.5hrs of questions from the audience. As an added bonus, attendees had a chance to check themselves for AF and to peruse the recent Scottish Parliament report on AF.

Terry is a friend of Café with Heart having previously spoken on the topic of vascular dementia. Terry was able to draw upon his cardiovascular research experience; his clinical experience as a stroke physician and his government experience as advisor to the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Stroke and Heart Disease.

AF is a term used to describe an irregular heartbeat – the most frequent irregularity of heart rhythm, with 96000 people diagnosed with AF in Scotland. The irregular heart beat in AF is a result of disruption of electrical signal transmission resulting in uncoordinated atrial contraction and abnormal blood flow in atria. The irregularities in heartbeat can be constant or intermittent, manifesting itself only occasionally. However, the consequences and the health risks are the same, regardless of the presentation of AF.

One in four people aged over 40 years old have or will develop AF. However, the prevalence of AF remains underestimated due to the often silent nature of the disease. Some people with AF can experience symptoms such as palpitation, tiredness, shortness of breath and dizziness; however AF is most often asymptomatic. Nevertheless, the consequences of undiagnosed AF may be devastating. AF leads to blood stasis in atria that lead to formation of blood clots that can lead to a stroke or limb ischemia. Stroke is the leading cause of disability in UK and a huge financial burden on NHS estimated at up to £9 billion each year.

The treatment of AF could substantially reduce the incidence of stroke in the UK and better diagnosis and management of AF were listed amongst the priorities in the Heart Disease Improvement Plan by The Scottish Government in 2014. The audience had many questions about the role of new medications, devices and procedures and Terry was able to talk about recent large treatment trials, many of which had input from SCMH researchers.

The first step in treatment of AF is diagnosis. Diagnosis requires an electrocardiogram (ECG) test. Previously this had required visiting a hospital or clinic but new technology has seen the development of inexpensive, portable devices. To prove the point, attendees were able to test themselves right there in Café with Heart! An action point from the recent national report was for a broader application of portable ECG tests, not just in hospital but in GP surgeries, pharmacies and even gyms.

Prevention is better than cure and Terry also emphasized the importance of life style in reducing your risk of AF. Regular moderate exercise, avoidance of excessive alcohol consumption, smoking cessation and hypertension management are all practices that can decrease your chances of developing AF.

If anyone is interested in future events please contact the Café with Heart team: Anastasiya Strembitska (, Aisling McFall ( or Mandy MacLean (

Terry Quin Cafe heart updated Photo    

First published: 2 May 2018