Everything in life has a regular rhythm, and if it’s thrown off, things don’t work as efficiently as they should. Your heart is no exception to this rule. It beats in a natural pattern that you don’t usually even consider. But if you have an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), your body might not function properly.
If you’ve ever felt your heart race, flip, or skip beats, you know that these can be scary feelings. Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm that can have you feeling all of these things and more. It’s estimated that up to 2.7 million people in the United States suffer from this common, yet unknown condition.
Here at Cardiovascular Care Center, we want to use September -- which is AFib Awareness Month -- as a time to educate you on this common heart condition. Here are a few things Dr. Shareghi wants you to know.
When your heart is healthy, it squeezes and relaxes to a regular beat. There are four chambers in your heart that work together to pump oxygen-rich blood out to your body parts. If you struggle with AFib, the top chambers of your heart beat too fast to be effective. In fact, the movements made by the upper chambers look more like quivering than an actual squeezing motion. This can allow blood to back up into the lower chambers of the heart.
Once blood starts to pool, it increases your risk of blood clots forming and lodging in an artery leading up to the brain. If this happens, you’ll experience a stroke, which can cause lifelong effects. As many as 2 out of 10 people who have strokes also suffer from AFib.
Are you at risk for Afib?
There are a few things that put you at a greater risk for this arrhythmia, including being 60 or older or having a history of:
- Heart valve disease
- Previous heart surgeries
- Heart failure
- Heart defect from birth
- Heart disease caused by high blood pressure
- History of lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Sleep apnea
- Overactive thyroid
Symptoms of AFib
If you suffer from atrial fibrillation, you might feel like your heart is fluttering or racing. Other common symptoms include:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Extreme tiredness
- Shortness of breath
If you’re struggling from any of these symptoms, you need to call our office right away to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shareghi. If your symptoms are severe or continue for more than 24 hours, head to the emergency room to get checked out right away.
How is AFib diagnosed?
The best way for Dr. Shareghi to determine if you have AFib is to review the electrical activity of your heart through the use of an electrocardiogram (EKG). This noninvasive, pain-free test records the rhythm of your heart.
Our staff will have you rest in a comfortable position and will then place small sticky sensors on your chest, arms, and legs. Wires will connect the sensors to the machine. You don't have to do anything but lie back and relax while the test is being done.
A few other tests that Dr. Shareghi might order include:
- Blood work - We want to make sure your liver, kidneys, thyroid, and other organs are functioning normally.
- Chest X-ray - This will rule out any lung-related problems or diseases.
- MRI - An MRI might be ordered to obtain a snapshot of heart function.
- CT Scan - This high-tech X-ray provides a 3D picture of your heart.
- Stress test - Sometimes it's difficult to get a good idea of how your heart is working when you’re at rest. During a stress test, you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike while wearing sensors that measure the electrical currents.
- Holter monitor - This a like having a mobile EKG machine at home. It records the electrical activity of your heart 24/7 so that we can capture any abnormal rhythms you might be experiencing.
If you’re feeling any of the above symptoms, you need to call one of our offices or book an appointment online. Our skilled team is ready to help you get to the bottom of your heart-related symptoms.