Before we talk about Afib
Treatment options it may be a good time to find out a little more about this electrical malfunction
of the heart.
Fibrillation (AF) or Afib as I like to call it, is the most
commonheart arrhythmia orheart rhythm
disorder andeffects around 2% of the population.
It becomes even more common with increasing age. It seldom occurs in those under 40 years old, but
occurs in up to 5% of those over 80 years of age. It's favorite age to strike "my age" late forties to early
fifties. I am 55; mine started when I was 51 but could have been happening for months or even years
unnoticed. It should be said Atrial Fibrillation is an electrical problem in the heart and not a plumbing
problem like a normal heart attack or blockage.
The heart is basically a large muscular pump that drives blood around the body. To
do this correctly, the heart’s chambers, there are four of them, must be precisely controlled electrically so they
work together as one pumping unit.
heartbeat begins with the sinoatrial or Sinus Node a natural
pacemaker located in the top right heart chamber (the right atrium). This electrical pulse spreads across both top
chambers, the atria, causing them to contract. The contraction of the atria moves blood into the two ventricles,
which are the main pumping chambers.
The electrical signal is delayed by about one tenth of a second by a special
structure called the atrioventricular (AV) node, and then spreads quickly across the ventricles to cause them to
This extra filling of the ventricles by the atria is not vital, but does serve to
"prime the ventricular pump" and improve overall heart function.
These atria, which contain the heart’s natural pacemaker, the SA node, are, the
part of the heart involved in Atrial Fibrillation. The ventricles, the muscular part of the heart that actually
does most of the pumping of the blood are electrically isolated from the atria, and the only way the
electrical signal can reach them is through the AV node.
Normal heart rhythm is termed sinus rhythm (no, nothing to do with your
Most people have a resting heart rate of between 60 and 80 beats per
Fibrillation, the atria contract rapidly and irregularly at rates of 400
to 600 beats per minute. As luck (see GOD) would have it, the AV node will not allow that many signals
through to the ventricles; only about 1 or 2 out of every 3 Atrial beats pass along to the
Even so the ventricles beat too fast, at rates of 110 to 180 beats per minute.
(Mine was over 170!)
The Most Common Symptoms:
Feeling out of breath, reasonable since your heart is beating faster than if you
were running a marathon.
Heart palpitations (a sudden pounding, fluttering, or racing feeling in the
Lack of energy; feeling over-tired.
Dizziness (feeling faint or light-headed).
Chest discomfort (pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest area)
The first thing you want to do is control the runaway heart
rate. This is done with drugs and even cardioversion. (similar to the crash paddles and electric shock as
seen on T.V.) The goal is to get the heart to beat in a unified, normal manner again. This is called
Normal Sinus Rhythm and is the Holy Grail that all us Afibbers want to achieve.
I have only touched on the simple mechanics of a complicated problem. Please
read on as we go into greater detail and try to explain the real "nature of the beast" - Atrial
Fibrillation. Afib Treatment can be as simple as some needed lifestyle changes or it may even involve surgery
or catheter ablation.
The bottom line is you do not have to suffer from afib - get it treated and get on with life!
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