Last Saturday at 7am, when most of us were still in bed, more than 25 cycling enthusiasts set off from Twin Towns Conference Centre, Coolangatta, headed for Sydney. Along the ride, which arrives on November 17, they will raise funds for urgent medical research and increase community awareness of what doctors are calling an ‘epidemic’ of irregular heartbeats.
More than half a million Australians have an irregular heartbeat and close to one in five of these people are unaware they have the condition.
Paceline founder and president, Steve Quinn (pictured), was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF) in 2003 at the age of 35.
‘I was suffering extremely low energy levels and lost my athletic ability – two things I attributed to age,’ Steve told Echonetdaily.
‘It was only when I started to experience frequent heart palpitations that I suspected something was wrong. It took several visits to my GP and a cardiologist to establish that I had atrial fibrillation – a condition that commonly affects the elderly.
‘While I felt I was lucky that I knew I had the condition, I realised there wasn’t a community voice or organisation to provide support and create awareness for the one in five of the half-million Australians who are unaware they have the condition.’
Scott Kesteven is a research scientist at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, and this will be his third Paceline ride.
Scott says there are specific research programs at the Institute that are focused on finding new ways to identify and treat anyone who’s at risk of developing heart-rhythm disorders, like atrial fibrillation.
According to Scott, ‘atrial fibrillation has always been thought of as a non-genetic disorder, but there’s now more and more evidence that genes do actually play an important role’.
‘Victor Chang is studying families and twins with AF to find out more about what these genes are. Hopefully this will lead to new ways of diagnosing and treating patients like Steve Quinn, so they can better manage their condition and ultimately live better lives.’
The week-long Paceline ride will encourage the community to have their pulse checked to screen for an irregular heartbeat and will raise funds for research into the causes and treatments of the condition.