What Is Atrial Fibrillation?

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My name is Dr. Percy Francisco Morales. I’m a board certified cardiologist and electrophysiologist living in Houston, Texas. Many people call me Dr. AFib. Why? I have a special interest in treating people with cardiac arrhythmias, in particular, atrial fibrillation or AFib.

The word “cardiac” is a medical word meaning heart. The word “arrhythmia” refers to your heart’s rhythm. Sometimes a person’s heart rhythm becomes irregular. Atrial fibrillation or AFib is a type of irregular heart rhythm.  AFib is something to pay attention to because it can lead to serious health issues such as stroke or heart failure. Because I genuinely care about you and your heart’s health, I want you to know about the abnormal heart rhythm called AFib.

According to the American Heart Association, at least 2.7 million Americans live with AFib. But that number might be higher. Some people have AFib but no noticeable symptoms of it.

Nobody likes to go to a doctor when they’re feeling just fine. However, by having regular yearly checkups, medical doctors can catch hidden conditions such as a heart arrhythmia.

Part of being correctly diagnosed with AFib requires a person to have an electrocardiogram. This medical test takes just minutes to perform and doesn’t hurt. Have you had an electrocardiogram lately?

What Does an Arrhythmia Feel Like?

When people have AFib, they may feel an irregular heart beat but don’t verbalize it. These episodes can be intermittent. Here’s what someone with AFib might typically say about the experience:

“My heart feels like it’s flip-flopping in my chest.”

“I feel like my heart is skipping beats. I especially notice this while carrying stuff upstairs or bending down.”

“I feel nauseated, light-headed, and weak for what seems like no reason. What’s up with that?”

“My heart is beating weird. I have to gasp for air. That’s kind of odd.”

“My heart feels like it’s quivering in my chest and I’m light headed while I’m pushing the grocery cart. Sometimes I’m afraid I might faint. What is going on?!”

Have you ever said statements or felt like this? If so, you might want to visit your doctor.

What is Your Heart Doing During an AFib Event?

Healthy hearts contract and relax in a regular beat. During atrial fibrillation, your heart’s upper chambers (also called the atrium), beat irregularly. They are actually quivering instead of beating effectively to move blood into your heart’s ventricles (the lower heart chambers.) If your blood flows in an irregular way, it can possibly cause clots.
If a clot is created in your heart, it can break off and enter the bloodstream. Think of a clot like a clog in your bathroom sink drain pipe. If you get too much hair stuck in the drain pipe, your sink backs up. Imagine having a clot in your bloodstream. If that happens, say in an artery leading to the brain, you can then have a stroke.

Referring again to America Heart Association information, about 15–20 percent of people who have strokes also have a heart arrhythmia. Taking all this into consideration, maybe now you can understand the possible danger of AFib.

Wonder if you have AFib? Join my Facebook page. On my Facebook page you can see up to date video content and can interact with me, and feel free to ask me any question about AFib on my AFib Friday’s feature.

Looking for an easy-to-talk-to heart specialist in Houston, TX? Make an appointment with me by calling 281.446.3645. I do understand how frightening having AFib is. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have to educate your family about this disease.

To make an appointment, call 281.446.3645 or Click here for an appointment.