As part of Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Week which kicks off next Monday the Heart Foundation will be staging an information and support session in Taradale for people with heart issues and their families.

The foundation's Hawke's Bay Heart Health advocate Audrey Tolua said many people living with heart disease or recovering from a heart health-related issue could find it both lonely and challenging.

"We want to reach out to bring people living with atrial fibrillation and their families together in a warm and supportive environment that allows them to meet, learn and share their experiences," Ms Tolua said.

Her message to people living with atrial fibrillation (AF) was simple and sincere - "you are not alone."

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Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition in which the upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat rapidly and irregularly causing the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) to pump the blood abnormally and ineffectively throughout the body.

When symptoms appear they include palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue.

Roughly one in three strokes occur as a result of atrial fibrillation - strokes being caused by a sudden blockage of the flow of blood to part of the brain, causing it to stop working and eventually damaging brain cells.

Heart Foundation figures show around 80,000 New Zealanders are affected by AF, although there could be another 20,000 who do not know that they have it.

Ms Tolua said the free-to-attend "Living with Atrial Fibrillation" session being staged next Thursday would give participants the opportunity to talk about and discuss what it is like living with the disease.

"Following a short presentation about the condition there will be an opportunity for people to share their experiences, if they wish to."

The participants will also have the opportunity to ask questions about AF.

"Family and whanau are more than welcome to come along and share with the group."

The session was being staged with the support of the Kowhai Clinic and there would be free blood pressure checks as well as health experts on hand to answer any queries people may have about their medication and overall condition.

There would also be advice on making appropriate lifestyle changes.

Participants would also enjoy healthy snacks although they needed to register for catering purposes.

The session will be held at All Saints Church in Puketapu Rd on September 21, starting at 1pm.

‚óŹ People seeking more information can contact Ms Tolua on 833 7446 or audreyt@heartfoundation.org.nz