Friday, November 8, 2013

Atrial Fibrillation - Heart Health

I was sitting with my husband in the cardiologist's office last Thursday morning.  My husband, the most valuable gardener to me, has suffered from Atrial Fibrillation many times.  I am not an expert on heart ailments; I have no medical training, but I want to share with you the following information from a St. Jude's Hospital leaflet.

A normal heart beats 60 to 100 times a minute.  If there are disorganized beats, it is called arrhythmia.  Any arrhythmia where the upper chambers of the heart beat 300 to 600 times per minute is called Atrial Fibrillation (AF).  This makes it very difficult for the chambers of the heart to pump blood properly.  The cardiologist said that often patients were not aware of their dangerous predicament.

Some symptoms of AF are dizziness, palpitations, a racing heart, and lack of energy. Many times a patient may become exhausted by walking from one room to another in the house or the patient becomes fatigued by going a short distance to the mailbox.  Why am I so tired?

The risk of stroke increases 5X with atrial fibrillation.  The risk of stroke increases for both men and women as they age.  There are 2.3 million AF patients in the US and approximately 160,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.  Timely detection and invention decrease the stroke risk.

The cardiologist said that for a normal person, diet did not much matter BUT that obesity did.  He said that what might trigger Atrial Fibrillation are obesity, caffeine, sleep apnea, and alcohol to name a few.  He also said that AF could occur regardless of a seemingly healthy life.

If you are concerned about your heart, the first defense is to know your blood pressure.  There are several blood pressure machines available and tested by Consumer Report.  I have checked our machines with the various doctors we have seen and they have given me the nod.  Otherwise, many drugstores and the big box stores have blood pressure machines available for public use and they do provide an indication of your heart's well being.

An Electrocardiogram (EKG) is a "test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart" (NIH).  An EKG is performed in the doctor's office and serves as an accurate monitoring system to see what is going on with your heart.  It is quick and painless.

Atrial Fibrillation may be treated by using medication therapy.  It may also require shock treatment that is done in a hospital but requires no overnight stay.

The very best you can do is listen to your cardiologist and follow his advice.  We are blessed to have excellent and caring heart doctors and I trust them with my husband's life.

A healthy gardener is a happy gardener.
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