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Getting to the Heart of the Matter: What You Need to Know About Atrial Fib and Other Heart Rhythm Problems

Getting to the Heart of the Matter: What You Need to Know About Atrial Fib and Other Heart Rhythm Problems

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Published by Jed Diamond, Ph.D.
My doctor told me there are three basic kinds of heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias): The heartbeat is too fast, too slow, or irregular. “Arrhythmias are very common,” he told me. “Most are completely benign and inconsequential, but some are extremely dangerous and life-threatening.” He set me up for a number of tests to see if I was healthy enough to run the race.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is becoming increasingly prevalent. AF is a rapid heart rate caused by chaotic electrical impulses in the atria. These signals result in rapid, uncoordinated, weak contractions of the atria. The chaotic electrical signals bombard the AV node. Atrial fibrillation may be temporary, but some episodes won't end unless treated.
My doctor told me there are three basic kinds of heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias): The heartbeat is too fast, too slow, or irregular. “Arrhythmias are very common,” he told me. “Most are completely benign and inconsequential, but some are extremely dangerous and life-threatening.” He set me up for a number of tests to see if I was healthy enough to run the race.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is becoming increasingly prevalent. AF is a rapid heart rate caused by chaotic electrical impulses in the atria. These signals result in rapid, uncoordinated, weak contractions of the atria. The chaotic electrical signals bombard the AV node. Atrial fibrillation may be temporary, but some episodes won't end unless treated.

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Published by: Jed Diamond, Ph.D. on Aug 06, 2013
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12/06/2013

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Getting to the Heart of the Matter:What You Need to Know About Atrial Fib and Other Heart Rhythm Problems
 
 
Jed Diamond, Ph.D. has been a health-care professional for more than 40 years. He isthe author of 10 books, including 
and
Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the IrritableMale Syndrome.
I offer counseling to men, women, and couples in his office in California or byphone with people throughout the U.S. and around the world. To receive a Free E-book on
Men’s Health and
a free subscription to my e-newsletter go to www.MenAlive.com.If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe. I write to everyone who joins my tribe of followers.
After finishing my last book, my son Evan suggested
we do something “physicaltogether” to get in shape. That sounded good to me. Spending hours at a time writing is
engaging, but I needed a physical challenge to get my heart going. When he suggested we train
for a marathon, I was apprehensive. “I’ve n
ever run a marathon in my life, even when I wasyoung and in-
shape,” I told him. “Come on Pops, we can train together. You’re in good shapefor a guy in his 60s.”
 So, train we did. After six months we were getting ready to run the
 Avenue of theGiants
, a beautiful run through the redwood trees in Northern California. However two weeksbefore the race, some strange things were happening with my heart. Every once in a while myheart would
speed up for no apparent reason, even when I wasn’t exercising.
Most of us never think much about how our heart beats. During our lives it just perksalong, lub dub lub dub, pumping blood through our body. But occasionally things get out of rhythm. Since I was going to be running a marathon I thought I should get checked out by acardiologist. What I learned was very interesting.He told me there are three basic kinds of heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias): The
heartbeat is too fast, too slow, or irregular. “Arrhythmias are very common,” he told me.“Most ar
e completely benign and inconsequential, but some are extremely dangerous and life-
threatening.” He set me up for a number of tests to see if I was healthy enough to run the race.
 I remembered from biology class that the heart is made up of four chambers
twoupper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). The rhythm of our heart isnormally controlled by a natural pacemaker located in the right atrium. The sinus nodeproduces electrical impulses that normally start each heartbeat.While I was waiting for the test results I learned what I could about my heart. From theMayo Clinic I learned that a normal heartbeat begins when a tiny cluster of cells called the sinusnode which sends an electrical signal (1). The signal then travels through the atria and passesthrough another group of cells called the atrioventricular node (2). From the atrioventricularnode, the signal travels through the ventricles (3), causing them to contract and pump outblood. After this, the process starts over again, (4).
 
 
Atrial fibrillation is a rapid heart rate caused by chaotic electrical impulses in the atria.These signals result in rapid, uncoordinated, weak contractions of the atria. The chaoticelectrical signals bombard the AV node. Atrial fibrillation may be temporary, but someepisodes won't end unless treated.Most people with atrial fibrillation have some structural abnormalities of the heartrelated to such conditions as heart disease or high blood pressure. Other factors that maycontribute to atrial fibrillation include a heart valve disorder, hyperthyroidism or heavy alcoholuse.A recent study (July 8, 2013) reported in American Journal of Cardiology,says that the
 
number of people suffering from Atrial Fib will rise dramatically in the next few decades. If current trends continue, the number of Americans who experience it will more than double inthe next 16 years, according to the study.In 2010, some five million U.S. adults had been diagnosed with AF, but the studyprojects about 12 million cases by the year 2030. That's a best guess, said study coauthor Dr.Daniel Singer, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, but the potentialrange is between 7 million and 17 million Americans diagnosed with the condition. "By anyestimate, there are going to be lots of (predominantly older) Americans with AF in 2030," Singertold Reuters Health. 
If You Notice Your Heart Acting Strange, Have It Checked
When our hearts are working the way they should we rarely give it much thought. But
when we notice something out of the ordinary, it’s t
ime to pay attention. I was glad I saw myfamily doctor and she referred me to the cardiologist. I had a number of tests including a

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