Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., so it’s important that you can recognize the signs of a heart problem. Symptoms of heart disease, also called coronary artery disease (CAD), abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), and heart failure sometimes overlap. But if you’re at risk for any … Read More
Atrial fibrillation is an arrhythmia in the top chambers of the heart (atria) causing uncoordinated muscular contractions that weaken the heart’s ability to pump. It is characterized by rapid and irregular beating.
Often it starts as brief periods of abnormal beating which become longer and possibly constant over time. Most episodes have no symptoms. Occasionally there may be heart palpitations, fainting, shortness of breath, or chest pain. The disease increases the risk of heart failure, dementia, and stroke.
Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn’t life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment.
Hypertension and valvular heart disease are the most common alterable risk factors for AF. Other heart-related risk factors include heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, and congenital heart disease. In the developing world, valvular heart disease often occurs as a result of rheumatic fever. Lung-related risk factors include COPD, obesity, and sleep apnea.
Other factors include excess alcohol intake, diabetes mellitus, and thyrotoxicosis. However, half of cases are not associated with one of these risks.
A diagnosis is made by feeling the pulse and may be confirmed using an electrocardiogram (ECG). The typical ECG shows no P waves and an irregular ventricular rate.
AF is often treated with medications to slow the heart rate to a near normal range (known as rate control) or to convert the rhythm to normal sinus rhythm (known as rhythm control). Electrical cardioversion can also be used to convert AF to a normal sinus rhythm and is often used emergently if the person is unstable. Ablation may prevent recurrence in some people. Depending on the risk of stroke, either aspirin or anti-clotting medications such as warfarin or a novel oral anticoagulant may be recommended. While these medications reduce this risk, they increase rates of major bleeding.
Before you reach for a Monster energy drink, consider this: Are energy drinks bad for you? A growing number of studies are finding that products like Monster, Red Bull, and 5-Hour Energy can result in a variety of health dangers without offering any unique benefits. The extreme acidity and high … Read More
A third or more of Americans have high blood pressure, or hypertension. What is high blood pressure? When the heart pumps, the pressure against the walls of your arteries is abnormally high. The excess pressure, if not controlled, puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, and other serious … Read More
Do you have a pacemaker? If so, you're benefiting from one of the most important developments in the history of medical technology. When the heart’s natural timing circuits go on the fritz, and if medication falls short, pacemakers can come to the rescue. Heart conditions that used to be fatal … Read More
Vascular dementia (VaD) ranks second among memory loss causes after Alzheimer’s disease, yet it is often overlooked. But what is vascular dementia? The condition is caused by vascular problems affecting memory regions and supporting structures in the brain, and is closely associated with cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease. Causes of … Read More
Various dementia types can be caused by medical or psychiatric conditions, among them high fever, vitamin deficiency, head trauma, or depression. These are the so-called "reversible dementias." Other dementia types are irreversible and—if you’re wondering, "Is dementia hereditary?"—can be caused by family genes. Let’s look at reversible dementia first. It’s … Read More
You feel fatigued, and you tire out more easily, unable to do some of the things you used to do. You might attribute your symptoms to any number of health problems, but then you notice a fluttering sensation in your chest. You have atrial fibrillation. Fatigue, heart palpitations, progressive weakness, … Read More
Whether you have atrial fibrillation (Afib) or a history of developing blood clots in your legs or lungs, you need to talk to your doctor about taking an oral anticoagulant medication. In a person with Afib, these blood thinners can prevent a blood clot from forming in the heart, traveling … Read More
The FDA has issued a warning regarding the use of drugs used to treat osteoporosis. This warning has the potential of affecting millions of people considering the fact that between 2005 and 2009, more than 150 million bisphosphonate prescriptions were dispensed to outpatients, the majority of those being women. Bisphosphonates – Fosamax, … Read More
When you feel your heart skip a beat or beat faster than normal, the sensations are called palpitations. They may be brief and harmless—the result of a vigorous workout. Or, heart palpitations symptoms could indicate an arrhythmia or another heart problem. An arrhythmia is a condition in which the heart’s … Read More