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
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.
A stroke occurs in the brain, but it can affect your body from head to toe. What causes strokes is a partial or total interruption of the blood supply to your brain. Suffering a stroke can be fatal, or it can cause brain damage, paralysis, and other complications. “A stroke’s … Read More
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Heart disease symptoms can vary greatly, depending on the type of heart disease you have. Heart disease is actually an umbrella term that covers such conditions as coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, valve disease, and heart failure. Recognizing symptoms of these serious problems is critical to getting early treatment and avoiding … Read More
About half of all heart failure patients die suddenly from cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is caused a deadly heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. The heart has four chambers: two upper chambers called atria, and two lower chambers known as ventricles. The atria pump blood into the ventricles, and the ventricles … Read More
About 87 percent of strokes are ischemic, meaning they are caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain. Most ischemic strokes are the result of cardiovascular disease, or atherosclerosis. Ischemic stroke causes can also be from a clot (embolism) that forms in the heart or aorta, breaks away, … Read More
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What is vascular dementia? It refers to a spectrum of cognitive impairments resulting from damage to blood vessels in the brain. Stroke, either a significant singular stroke or multiple smaller strokes, is a major cause of vascular dementia (VaD), but any disease process that damages blood vessels in the brain … Read More
Many people having stroke symptoms or a heart attack don’t know it. Lack of knowledge about the warning signs means they may dismiss a stroke as a bout of dizziness, while a heart attack might be chalked up to heartburn or a pulled muscle. However, if you ignore the symptoms … Read More
You may know cardiomyopathy as a type of heart disease, but it’s actually more than that. Cardiomyopathy is really a group of diseases affecting the heart muscle. There are several kinds of cardiomyopathies, and each one has its own set of possible causes and outcomes. One of the common characteristics … Read More