This month, the Heart Rhythm Society launched a campaign called: “A-Fib Feels Like.” A-Fib or AF are the nicknames for a serious heart condition called Atrial Fibrillation.
The good news is that Atrial Fibrillation is treatable, restoring the heart to a normal rhythm, controlling rapid heart rate, and preventing blood clots and subsequent stroke risks. The atria are the top chambers of the heart. When they fibrillate, that means they are quivering, sometimes upwards of 200 times a minute. This can cause palpitations, chronic fatigue, or pain.
Because it is associated with obesity, AF is of increasing concern. About 160,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Because it is associated with aging, New York State has reported that 188,000 Medicare recipients have used medical services because of AF. And because it is increases the risk of stroke by 500%, it is important to quality of life as well as to the cost of health care.
Anne Curtis, MD, Past President of the Heart Rhythm Society and advocate for informing the public about AF, is the Charles and Mary Bauer Professor of Medicine at University at Buffalo, ErieCounty Medical Center. She is also Chair of the Department of Medicine. Dr. Curtis says that information about AF available to the public can potentially save lives.
AF is so important that on July 29, 2011, the U.S. Senate passed by unanimous consent S. Res. 243. The AF website says the resolution “promotes increased awareness, diagnosis, and treatment of atrial fibrillation to address the high morbidity and mortality rates and to prevent avoidable hospitalizations associated with the disease.”
Dr. Curtis emphasizes that physicians can find an irregular heart rhythm at ordinary check-ups, but that those who feel the symptoms even a couple of times a month can be monitored while they go about their daily routines to check for it. The Heart Rhythm Society says patients sometimes report:
- Thunder rumbling in your chest
- Drums pounding in your chest
- Fish flopping in your chest
- Frequent palpitations (the feeling that your heart has skipped a beat)
- Shortness of breath after climbing steps or exerting yourself
- A decrease in your ability to exercise
- Chest pain
But A-Fib is not associated with sudden death in, for instance, student athletes, or with student binge drinking, Dr. Curtis says. These instances have their own causes and so have their own preventive measures. It is also not necessarily associated with the occasional heart rhythm irregularity from emotion or fear.
The defibrillators in public buildings can be managed by even untrained bystanders in the event of a coworker who has had a medical episode. “You don’t have to stand there for ten minutes and read the manual,” Dr. Curtis said. The directions are right there, she notes, with the machine, and the machine itself can sense whether the person needs to be shocked or not. It is programmed to deliver a shock only when necessary. And in an emergency, coworkers should also call 911 and administer CPR.
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Please note: Articles by the Buffalo Alternative Medicine Examiner are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For further information or advice, consult your health practitioner.