In the song “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” Diana Ross asks, “Why does my heart skip a crazy beat?”
For at least 2.7 million Americans, it’s not love but atrial fibrillation (AFib) that causes an irregular heartbeat.
Normally, your heart pumps blood through its four chambers by contracting and relaxing to a regular beat. With AFib, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly or quiver instead of beating effectively to move blood into the lower chambers (the ventricles).
Some people don’t notice any symptoms, but AFib often feels like a fluttering in the chest. Other symptoms may include:
- Chest pain or pressure (This is a medical emergency, since it may indicate that you’re having a heart attack. Call 911 immediately.)
- Dizziness, fainting or confusion
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Feeling that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering or beating too hard or fast
- Shortness of breath and anxiety
“If you experience any of these, you should visit your cardiologist or primary care physician,” said Dr. Haitham Hreibe, an electrophysiologist — a cardiologist who is specially trained to care for heart rhythm problems — at Augusta University Heart and Cardiovascular Services. “Earlier recognition and diagnosis of AFib significantly improves the treatment outcomes.”
Augusta University’s state-of-the-art Heart Rhythm Center was designed in conjunction with its patients. It provides the most advanced technology in the region to treat AFib and other heart rhythm conditions in both adults and children. Hreibe and his colleagues are fellowship-trained and provide
a complete and thorough evaluation to diagnose and treat heart rhythm conditions.
AFib is a serious condition that requires treatment. Left untreated, AFib doubles the risk of heart-related death and increases your risk of stroke five times. Now, a new study indicates that AFib is also associated with heart failure, sudden cardiac death, heart attack and chronic kidney disease.
Treatment varies for each patient, but options may include:
- Lifestyle changes, such as reducing or eliminating caffeine or alcohol in your diet and losing weight
- Medications, including blood thinners, heart rate controllers and heart rhythm controllers
- Nonsurgical procedures, such as ablation, which destroys malfunctioning heart tissue with bursts of energy delivered through a catheter
- Surgical procedures, such as implanting a pacemaker (small electrical device) under the skin to regulate the heartbeat