Posts Tagged ‘heart’


Atrial fibrillation is an irregular often rapid heart rate, causing the heart’s two upper chambers to quiver instead of beating regularly. Fortunately, the lower two chambers still work normally and are able to pump the blood out of the heart, although not as efficiently.

It is this inefficient pumping that can cause the frequent symptoms of palpitations, shortness of breath, weakness, and lightheadedness, to name a few.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart arrhythmia. It is found in over 6 million Americans and accounts for some 90,000 deaths annually. It occurs in about 1-percent of individuals in their 60s, and increases to 12-percent for adults who are in their 80s. Some 30-percent of people with atrial fibrillation are unaware of their condition.

Atrial fibrillation can be brought on by increasing age, prior coexisting heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, and drinking alcohol. It can come and go, or it can be chronic and permanent. It is usually not life threatening, but it is a serious condition and needs to be treated.

There are two main goals in the treatment of atrial fibrillation. First is to attempt to control the rhythm, that is, get the rhythm back to the normal beating pattern. If a normal rhythm cannot be obtained, then the second goal is to control the heart rate. Ideally one would want to have the rate 80 beats per minute or below. Both of these goals can be accomplished with medication.

If one is very symptomatic or has relatively new onset atrial fibrillation, the heart can be electrically treated with a small electrical shock while under brief anesthesia. This treatment however, is rarely a permanent solution.

One of the main problems with atrial fibrillation is the chance of having a stroke. Blood clots can form in the quivering upper chambers. If a clot breaks loose it can go to the brain, causing a stoke.

This can be prevented by taking a blood thinning medication. Another complication is heart failure due to a weakening of the heart muscle.

There is a new advanced procedure called ablation. In this case a catheter is inserted in a large blood vessel in the groin and threaded up into the heart. Through highly technical computerized imaging, the trigger area for the fibrillation in the upper chamber is identified and lightly burned with high frequency radio waves. This destroys the area where the abnormal impulses of atrial fibrillation are generated. The success rate for this procedure is around 70-percent initially, and up to 90-percent if a second procedure is necessary.

Many people with atrial fibrillation are living relatively normal lives today when properly managed. It is a condition not to be feared, but to be monitored closely and treated appropriately by your doctor.


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Patients who go to a doctor complaining of heart palpitations usually worry that they have some serious problem with their heart. They often describe a feeling that their hearts are “flip-flopping,” missing a beat, beating faster or beating irregularly.

Palpitations, whether harmless (as most of them are) or serious, should not be ignored. A medical evaluation is recommended, especially if they are associated with dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting.

Palpitations are usually caused by the heart beating too soon before the next normal beat. When this happens, one feels a “flip-flop” sensation in one’s chest. Because the palpitation is only a skipped beat, the heart can still function normally, so there’s usually no health risk.

Quite often, a cause for palpitations is not found, but there are some known factors:

*Strong emotional responses, such as anxiety, stress or fear

*Use of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol

*Cold and cough medications that contain the decongestant pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), which can act as a stimulant

*Strenuous exercise

In rare cases, palpitations might be a sign of a potentially serious heart problem that requires treatment. Serious complications of palpitations can include the following:

*Fainting from a significant drop in blood pressure.

*Stroke from causing lack of oxygen rich blood to the brain.

*Heart failure from the heart pumping ineffectively.

*Cardiac arrest from a heart beating so irregularly that blood circulation stops.

A medical evaluation for palpitations will usually involve a physical exam, blood tests, and an electrocardiogram. The doctor might also order a portable heart monitor to be worn for 24 to 72 hours, which can detect palpitations not found on an EKG. The bottom line is that heart palpitations are usually more bothersome than they are serious, but it’s wise to check with a doctor, just to be safe.

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Interesting facts from medical literature

Beginning today, I will occasionally share with you some interesting facts from articles I have read during my review of current medical literature.

Did you know:

  • Skin cancer on the head or neck is more deadly than on other parts of the body.
  • 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week can reduce blood pressure between 5 and 8 points
  • Extensive use of flip-flop shoes can cause pain in the heel, ankle, lower leg and toes.
  • Pessimistic heart patients are almost twice as likely to die within six to 10 years as heart patients with an optimistic outlook.
  • Trans fats, found in many processed foods, not only increase the risk of heart disease but also increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 9-1-1, then chew and swallow one 325 mg. aspirin
  • Exercising in water burns more calories than doing the same exercise on land.
  • People, who engage in vigorous cardiovascular activities regardless of their size, are healthier and live longer than their sedentary counterparts.
  • Fish oil may help to ease depression.
  • To halt a lower leg calf cramp, flex your foot by pointing it up toward your shin. You can grab and pull the toes and ball of your foot to help flex it.
  • Sixteen percent of people between the ages of 20 to 69 suffer significant hearing loss.
  • Memory loss is linked to low levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol
  • The spread of flu is linked to airline travel. The fewer people who travel by airline over the Thanksgiving holiday, in particular, the slower the flu moves across the country.
  • Vitamin C may fight wrinkles.
  • Excessive drinking of alcohol leads to increased risk of pre-diabetes.
  • Eating or drinking food high in cocoa improves blood flow to the brain and may help prevent stroke and dementia.
  • People with type 2 adult onset diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease, mostly because of increasing cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Those who receive the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine may be at a lesser risk of heart attacks.
  • Adult muscle mass decreases by 1 percent a year after the age of 30.
  • Drinking up to three cups a day of black or green tea reduced stroke risk by 21 percent.
  • Symptoms of depression can be improved by eating less processed sugary foods and increasing foods such as grains and vegetables.
  • For acute low back pain, a day or two of bed rest may be helpful. For more rapid healing, it is best to get out of bed and move around as soon as possible.
  • Newer cooking recipes have larger portion sizes. Stay conscious of portion size when eating.
  • Drowsy driving is linked to 100,000 motor vehicle accidents causing 1,000 deaths and 40,000 injuries.
  • Accidents with dogs and cats cause 80,000 emergency room visits annually for their owners in the United States.

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