A fast-beating heart can be the sign of a serious health condition called atrial fibrillation or a-fib. Its major symptom is a heart that beats out of rhythm. And left unchecked, it can lead to heart attack or stroke.
“Kind of beating chaotically is the best way to describe it. So it’s not beating the normal way so blood can pull up. The atrial appendage is the top part of the left heart, that’s kind of notorious for blood clots forming there. So there’s ways you can actually go in there and take a look to see if there’s a clot,” says Dr. Roshan Vattyham, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
Several diagnostic tests are used to explore a-fib, including an EKG. It represents a snapshot in time, but isn’t always helpful because people can go in and out of a-fib. So in suspected cases, patients may be sent home with a monitoring device.
“We can send patients home with a monitor for 1 day, 2 days, even up to 30 days. And we have some implantable recorders, they look like jump drives on the computer, just to see what their rhythm is doing over a long period of time,” says Dr. Vattyham.
Not everyone will experience them, but there are signs you can look out for: palpitations, drop in blood pressure, lightheadedness, shortness of breath or confusion. These are symptoms you should discuss with your family doctor.
“Atrial fibrillation is also associated with co-morbidities like heart failure, diabetes, hypertension, they all kind of tend to be linked. So primary care doctors they tend to see it for the first time and they send it to us. They do a really good job seeking us out,” says Dr. Vattyham.
Getting to the heart of a-fib is the first step in controlling the chaos.
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Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we’ve been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.