(CNN) – You can have a healthy heart, with nice, clear blood vessels, you can eat all the right foods, exercise and not smoke, and still you can develop a serious form of heart disease.
We’re talking about arrhythmias: disturbances in the normal electrical conduction pattern of the heart that can strike anybody at any age.
“They started yelling at me, I actually passed out.” House painter Peter Robb; remembering the summer day five years ago, when he fainted while driving, and nearly ran into a telephone pole. At the time, Robb blamed stress and dehydration for these episodes, but in reality, there was something much more serious going on: Robb had developed a heart arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation.
“Atrial fibrillation is by far the most common arrhythmia. And it’s an irregular, fast rhythm in the top chambers of the heart.”
Dr. Kevin Heist specializes in treating all kinds of arrhythmias at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. He says atrial fibrillation or a-fib is rarely fatal, but the symptoms are distressing, and left untreated, it can lead to a stroke.
Because of that risk, patients with a-fib often take a blood-thinning drug, such as aspirin or warfarin, along with medications to control heart rate, like beta-blockers.
Robb improved his diet, exercises daily, and is now an avid practitioner of yoga. He’s not had a single episode of his arrhythmia in years.