Vice President Joe Biden, basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird, music's Barry Manilow, NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip and my Uncle Denny. What do these people have in common? They are among the estimated 2.3 to 5.1 million Americans who have a heart condition called atrial fibrillation or “A-fib”.
February is American Heart Month.
There are more than 150,000 new cases of A-fib discovered every year. Those diagnosed are mostly men and typically older than 60. According to the American Heart Association, it's the most common serious heart rhythm abnormality in people over the age of 65 years. Untreated, it doubles the risk of heart-related deaths and causes an increased risk for stroke; however many patients are unaware that A-Fib is a serious condition.
The most common symptom of A-Fib is a quivering or fluttering heartbeat. This is the result of the abnormal firing of electrical impulses causing the atria (the top chambers in the heart) to quiver (or fibrillate). People may also experience fatigue, weakness, dizziness, heart pounding, and shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing these symptoms needs to get to the doctor.
If you are diagnosed with A-Fib, your doctor may prescribe medicine like beta blockers or treat an underlying cause, such as hyperthyroidism. Your doctor may advise having a cardioversion. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is an outpatient procedure where shocks are given to the sedated patient’s heart so that a normal rhythm can be restored.
A-Fib treatment saves lives and lowers risks.