Normally your heart beats at sixty to eighty times per minute. Your heart is a strong muscle that pumps your blood throughout your body. It is divided into four chambers. The two atria chambers are located on the top and two ventricles chambers are located on the bottom. The Sinus Node is in the right atrium and is where each heartbeat starts. It generates an electrical signal that moves down the AV Junction to the ventricles below. This electrical signal causes the heart to beat. The atria pumps the blood into the ventricles, immediately followed by the contracting ventricles sending blood throughout the body.
Someone who suffers from Atrial Fibrillation experiences the upper part of their heart beating faster than the rest of their heart, causing it to feel like it is shaking or quivering out of control. This unnatural fluttering sensation will cause a rapid or irregular pulse, which could result in fainting, fatigue, sweating, shortness of breath, swelling legs, and chest pain. This is because atrial fibrillation can make your atria contract up to 600 times per minute.
Atrial Fibrillation is a common arrhythmia. It can be life threatening because it reduces your blood circulation leading to a lack of oxygen, plus the pooling of blood in the atria can cause blood clots that could lead to a stroke. Unfortunately, thirty-percent of those who have this condition aren’t even aware of it. Sometimes it is due to heart disease, or an unusual heart condition. Many times it is found in younger people and doesn’t involve the heart. This is called lone atrial fibrillation. Common triggers include caffeine and alcohol in susceptible individuals. Other triggers include:
- Anxiety and Stress
- High Altitude
- Antihistamines and bronchial inhalants
- MSG sensitivity
- Drinks high in caffeine
- Some sugar substitutes
- Local anesthetics
- Digestive problems, like heartburn
- Sleep apnea
- Over exertion
- Genetics: tall, large men are more prone to this condition
Though people who get infrequent periods of atrial fibrillation due to triggers aren’t suffering from heart disease, if they don’t avoid these irritants, it could lead to heart damage over a period of time.
Atrial Fibrillation due to illness or a medical condition can be brought on by:
- High blood pressure
- An overactive thyroid
- An inflammation of the sac around the heart
- A blood clot in the lungs
- Malfunction of the SA node
- Heart valve disease
- Left ventricle wall enlargement
- A diseased heart muscle
If you have noticed you sometimes have an irregular or fluttering heartbeat, it would be wise to get a check up by a cardiologist. This condition can be eliminated through surgery with a treatment known as Pulmonary Vein Ablation. It is a relatively painless operation using radiofrequency, cryo, ultrasound energy, or laser, and can be performed with conscious sedation or general anesthesia.
Many clinics are available in the Tampa Bay area to alleviate this problem. One of the best clinics in the Tampa Bay area for a proper diagnosis is the St. Petersburg Heart Center, located at 900 Central Avenue, and is a part of the Bayside Medical Center.
If you would like to get more information about the causes, diagnosis, and treatments of Atrial Fibrillation, the Community Health Education Center located in Hyde Park Village at 740 South Village Circle in Tampa will be offering an informational program called “Curative Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation,” presented by Bengt Herweg, MD, FACC, from the Florida Heart Rhythm Institute, on November 18th at 10:30 a.m. Check-in will be at 10:00 a.m. You must register in advance by calling 1-800-822-3627 or you can register online at www.tgh.org. This program is presented by Tampa General Hospital.