By Eliz GreeneA new report indicates the drug Fosamax may increase your risk of an abnormal heart rate. Heart attack-survivor Eliz Greene shares some information on recognizing the symptoms of atrial fibrillation and the importance of having symptoms checked to reduce risk of stroke.
Mellanie True Hills felt as if her heart was jumping out of her chest. Patty Borkowski didn’t have any symptoms at all. How would you know if you have the most common irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation causes the upper chambers of the heart to quiver, which can cause the heart to overwork itself and eventually lead to congestive heart failure. In addition, the quivering causes blood to pool in the upper chambers and where clots can form clots. These clots, when launched into the body, can cause a stroke. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke by five. One-third of people with atrial fibrillation (afib) will have a stroke.
Detecting and treating afib is essential to avoiding a stroke.
Determining if you have afib means paying attention to your body. The atrial fibrillation patient resource StopAfib.org describes what afib feels like.
Different patients have different symptoms of afib. Some patients describe afib as feeling like their heart has skipped a beat, followed by a thud and a speeding up or racing of the heart. Others describe it as an erratic heartbeat or strong heart palpitations. For still others, it feels like fluttering or butterflies in the chest, or worms that are dancing or crawling. Others have chest and throat pressure that mimics a heart attack, or constriction around the left bicep.
The first time, it''s really scary, and you wonder, "Is this a heart attack?" It may leave you dizzy, faint, light-headed, anxious, breathless, weak, or just plain exhausted. After it stops, you may feel drained.
For some people, afib doesn''t stop, and may continue for hours, days, weeks, months, or even years.
For True Hills, founder of StopAfib.org, her first afib incident started with a skipped heartbeat, followed by her heart racing. During her second episode, while she was out for a walk, within seconds her heart rate more than tripled on her heart rate monitor, reaching 300 beats per minute. She always became so dizzy, nauseous, and lightheaded during episodes that she feared passing out each time.
Occasionally she is asked, "How can you tell when your heart skips a beat or starts racing?" Her answer usually is, "It''s usually pretty obvious, especially when your heart literally feels as though it is going to leap out of your chest."
Generally, afib is so overt that it''s hard to miss, though for some afib patients, the symptoms can be subtle.
Borkowski’s afib was detected during a routine check-up. Like Borkowski, many people experience afib because of other underlying heart disease. Others have “Lone Afib” or atrial fibrillation without any other heart disease.
While afib is adrenalin-related for most people, typically occurring during the day, and is related to exercise, caffeine or other such triggers, others (more often men) experience vagal afib. During vagal afib the heart slows down and can be brought on by sleeping or eating and happens more often at night. Those with vagal afib can sometimes “run-off” episodes of afib by exercising.
Symptoms can vary widely from person to person. “With afib, we are all an ‘experiment of one.’ It is rare to find another afib patient who has the exact same combination of triggers and symptoms as you do,” True Hills says.
Regular check-ups with your doctor and acting on any abnormal heart palpitations, racing heart, dizziness, or extreme fatigue are important. In any case, following up symptoms with tests, such as an EKG or wearing an event monitor, will determine if afib is an issue.
Don’t ignore your symptoms. Get checked out and protect yourself from stroke!
For more Healthy Lifestyle Tips for Busy People visit Eliz’s blog at www.EmbraceYourHeart.com.
Eliz Greene survived a heart attack at age thirty-five while seven-months pregnant with twins. She is a heart health educator, freelance writer, and speaker on a mission to help busy people lead healthier lives.