Atrial Fibrillation: When The Heart Skips A Beat
North American Precis Syndicate
Atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat, can cause chaos over time—but there are ways to treat it—just as Sue Halpern did. (NAPS)
(NAPSI)—Every heart has a built-in pacemaker that ensures it beats
regularly. When that natural pacemaker doesn’t do its job, however, a
person may experience an irregular heart rhythm, the most common and
undertreated of which is atrial fibrillation (AF). This irregular heartbeat
isn’t always noticeable at first but can cause chaos over time.
AF, which affects more than 33.5 million people worldwide, occurs when the
upper chambers of the heart beat significantly faster than a normal heartbeat
or quiver irregularly. Some people with AF have no symptoms, while others
have chest discomfort or pain and experience fainting or light-headedness, as
well as fatigue, shortness of breath or weakness.
“When I was young, my heart did funny things. It fluttered, it
skipped a beat, but mostly it resolved by itself,” said Sue Halpern, a
lifelong AF patient. “When it didn’t resolve by itself, I somehow
learned how to make it stop. I began to notice in my 20s and early 30s that
it was getting harder to make it stop, but I still didn’t know anything
was wrong with me.”
Because the heart isn’t pumping normally, blood can pool in the
heart and clot; these clots can also make their way through the bloodstream.
If left untreated, people with AF have a much higher risk of stroke and an
increased risk of heart failure.
AF is typically caused by damage to the heart from disease, an abnormality
from birth, surgery or a heart attack. However, adopting healthy behaviors
such as monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure, avoiding smoking and
excessive caffeine, and not abusing alcohol can help prevent disease.
How To Tell If You Have AF
As with so many diseases, early detection of AF is important. Physicians
may obtain an electrocardiogram (ECG) or stress test, or recommend short-term
monitoring with a cardiac event recorder or Holter monitor. Unlike these
short-term methods, a small insertable cardiac monitor (ICM) automatically
detects and records abnormal heart rhythms for up to three years, while
remaining barely detectable under the patient’s skin. For example, the
Medtronic Reveal LINQ ICM is approximately one-third the size of an AAA
battery, yet it can accurately detect AF.
What To Do If You Have AF
Once diagnosed, living with AF doesn’t have to be a burden. While
treatment options vary, many people respond well to medications. For those
whose natural pacemaker needs an extra boost to keep the beat, treatment may
include an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) or a pacemaker that can
respond to and reduce the duration of AF episodes. An ICD can also detect a
dangerous and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm and send a lifesaving
therapy to correct it.
Another treatment for paroxysmal (fleeting) atrial fibrillation (PAF) is
cryoablation, a minimally invasive procedure that isolates the pulmonary
veins, which are a source of erratic electrical signals that cause PAF. The
device used in the procedure uses cold energy to interrupt these irregular electrical
pathways in the heart.
In Halpern’s case, cryoablation greatly reduced her PAF episodes and
has given her a new outlook on life.
“For someone who was having episodes every seven to 10 days for
eight to 12 hours at a time, I wouldn’t have dreamed of having a life
free of AF,” Halpern said. “My advice is, if you feel something
off with your heart, do something about it.”
Those who are living with or who suspect they may have AF can get further
facts about therapies that may help get their heart back in sync and find a
physician by visiting www.medtronic.com/us-en/patients/conditions/atrial-fibrillation-afib.html.
healthy behaviors such as monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure, avoiding
smoking and excessive caffeine, and not abusing alcohol can help prevent
heart disease such as atrial fibrillation. http://bit.ly/2EYPbZ5”
On the Net:North American Precis Syndicate, Inc.(NAPSI)