Why it matters if you have an irregular heartbeat — Atrial Fibrillation
January 17, 2017

Here’s the simple answer: people with irregular heartbeats are nearly five times more likely to have a stroke . The most common kind of irregular heartbeat is atrial fibrillation (AF, or AFib, for short). It’s a complicated name, but when you understand the definition, the name makes sense. Let’s trace it.

A Cardiologist at St. Luke’s Heart and Vascular Center explains. “There are four chambers in the heart. The top two are called atria, and they collect blood coming back from the lungs. (The atria carry this blood to the ventricles, from which it goes to the rest of the body.) When the atria contract correctly, from electrical impulses they receive, the heart operates normally. But in AFib, the atria don’t contract normally. Instead, they vibrate, or “fibrillate,” resulting in less blood being released into the ventricles. The remaining blood can pool in the atria.”

Why is this important to know? a Cardiologist at St. Luke’s answers, “If the blood pools, it can clot. And that clot can be pumped out of the heart to the brain. The clot can block the blood flow in an artery in the brain….causing a stroke.” Know the acronym FAST, cardiologist says, because it can help you remember the symptoms of a stroke. “F: is your Face drooping on one side? A: is one Arm weak or numb? S: is your Speech slurred? T, the final letter, is Time: if someone is showing any of these signs, it’s time to call 911.”

There are many causes for AFib, but one of the most common is simply age. Stress, diabetes, heart valve disease, and heart failure can also trigger AFib. But since the condition can go completely undetected, it’s important to get regular checkups and find out about the health of your heartbeat. The source of AFib will determine the treatment you need.