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Is your heartbeat normal?

“Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregularity in the heartbeat,” says Tom Deering, M.D., director of the arrhythmia center at Piedmont Heart Institute. In atrial fibrillation, the electrical signals of the atria (two small chambers of the heart) are fired too quickly and in an uncontrolled manner. The atria quiver, rather than contract, causing blood to pool or clot. There are two consequences of this type of arrhythmia, explains Dr. Deering.

  1. Clinical symptoms, such as racing heartbeat, dizziness, lightheadedness and faintness.
  2. Serious complications, such as congestive heart failure or stroke.

An electrocardiogram (EKG) is the first step in evaluating a patient for this condition, he says. It measures the electrical activity of the heart and can give your cardiologist a better picture of how your heart is functioning. If you experience any of the above symptoms, talk to your physician. While there is no cure for atrial fibrillation, it can be treated with drug therapy or procedures like cryoablation.

The overall risk of dying from atrial fibrillation alone is low, though it can lead to other fatal conditions. “Atrial fibrillation is benign and you can usually lead a normal life,” says Dr. Deering. “But, you need to be evaluated so you can get on the proper treatment and get assessed for associated risk factors. Those can be treated to minimize your risk of problems downstream.” For more information on atrial fibrillation and treatment options, visit Piedmont Heart Institute.

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