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Atrial Fibrillation, (often referred to as A-FIB), affects over three million adults in the United States, a number that is expected to quadruple in the coming decade as the population ages and risk factors like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure become even more common. The lifetime risk of developing A-fib is greater than 20 percent, yet many people don’t even know they have it.

In A-fib, the Atria, (two upper chambers of the heart), beat rapidly and chaotically out of sync with the Ventricles – the heart’s lower pumping chambers that are responsible for circulating blood throughout the body. The Ventricles may then be unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, resulting in sluggish circulation, fatigue and breathlessness.

Untreated, A-fib can raise the risk of stroke by fourfold in men and about 6-fold in women, and can raise the risk of heart failure by three times and 11 times, respectively.  A-fib is also associated with dementia, likely the result of strokes and impaired circulation to the brain caused by the abnormal heart rhythm. The condition is directly or indirectly responsible for more than 158,000 deaths a year.

How do I know if I have A-fib?

Those affected may feel their heart race, pound or flutter periodically for minutes at a time, or they may notice occasional episodes of shortness of breath, dizziness or undue fatigue upon exertion. The symptoms can be triggered by excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeine.   Your doctor can do an EKG or a treadmill heart test, or you may wear a portable monitor for several weeks to look for abnormal heart rhythms, to confirm a diagnosis of A-fib. Such tests can help distinguish A-fib from less serious conditions that may cause the heart to flutter, like anxiety and stress.

How is A-fib treated?

There have been some great advances in the treatment of Atrial Fibrillation.  However, to gain greater insight into this disabling disease and how it’s successfully treated, I strongly recommend you listen to my Podcast interview with Dr. Kevin P. Jackson.   Dr. Jackson is a Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist specializing in Atrial Fibrillation at Duke Cardiology in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

To access our Podcast interview -simply CLICK HERE.


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