Atrial fibrillation (a type of arrhythmia) is a disorder found in more
than three million Americans. Atrial fibrillation causes a disruption
in the normal function of the electrical conduction system of the heart.
The heart's two small upper chambers (the atria) quiver instead of
beating effectively. Blood isn't pumped completely out of them, so
it may pool and clot. This condition increases the risk of a stroke. If
a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and becomes lodged
in an artery in the brain, a stroke results. About 15 percent of strokes
occur in people with atrial fibrillation. Some of the causes of atrial
fibrillation are coronary artery disease, rheumatic heart disease, pericarditis
(inflammation of the pericardium that surrounds the heart, which is similar
to a sack that contains the heart) and mitral-valve disease. The likelihood
of developing atrial fibrillation increases with age. Three to five percent
of people over age 65 have atrial fibrillation.
Treating atrial fibrillation is an important way to help prevent stroke.
That's why the American Heart Association recommends aggressive treatment
of this heart arrhythmia. Click
here to read about
cryoablation - one of the latest treatment options for atrial fibrillation.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may be at risk
for an arrhythmia that could lead to a stroke.
- Do you have palpitations - irregular, rapid heart rates, or feel like your
heart is going to jump out of your chest?
- Do you have a history of hypertension (high blood pressure)?
- Do you get dizzy?
- Do you get short of breath when you exercise?
- Are you unable to exercise?
- Do you have a rapid heart rate after consuming caffeine or alcohol?
- Have you been told you have a murmur associated with a heart valve?*
- Do you have sleep apnea?
*Studies have demonstrated that individuals who answer yes to both of the
questions with an asterisk have a greater chance of developing atrial
St. Joseph Hospital is offering an easy, inexpensive screening that could
help detect atrial fibrillation before you have a problem. More information
can be found at the
Women's Heart Center Screenings.