Atrial fibrillation: What is it and how can it be treated

NEW YORK (CNN) – Stroke continues to be a leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S.  It is also the fourth leading cause of death.

One of the main risk factors for stroke is atrial fibrillation.  What is it and how can it be treated?

The human heart, on the average, beats a hundred-thousand times a day, but as we age, so does our cardiac system, and the heart can begin to beat erratically.

The irregular heart rhythm is called atrial fibrillation or a-fib and more than two million Americans have it.

“What happens is small little clots can form in the top part of the heart which isn’t squeezing very well and then they get pushed out the main pumping chamber and can go up the neck and into the head and cause a stroke,” Dr. Warren Levy, cardiologist at Virginia Heart said.

When Richard Hamner’s heart began to flutter he knew something was wrong, “I started developing very rapid heartbeat and I went into the hospital right away for it. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Hamner was diagnosed with a-fib. He tried medication like blood thinners, but he didn’t like the side effects.  Eventually, he chose to have his heart shocked back into rhythm. The procedure is called an advanced ablation.

“The advanced ablation therapies are extremely successful. About 80 to 90 percent of patients will no longer have atrial fibrillation after one of these procedures,” Dr. Levy continued.

Now Hamner doesn’t feel any of the side effects he had before and his heart is back to a normal beat.

There are other treatments for a-fib.  It all depends on the severity.  Check with your doctor if you have trouble sleeping, have a rapid heart beat, and are abnormally tired.   A good cardiologist can help.

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