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Racing Heart? It Could Mean A Risk for Stroke

In the past minute, your heart has probably beaten about 60 to 80 times—and you never gave it a thought. But for more than 2 million Americans with atrial fibrillation (AF), a normal heartbeat is nothing to take for granted. AF is the most common form of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.

According to Peter Kowey, MD, Chief of Cardiovascular Services for Main Line Health. “The culprit is a flaw in the heart’s electrical system, which maintains a regular beat. If something disrupts the electrical signals, the heart’s upper chambers, or atria, start to quiver. The result is an unsteady, often racing heartbeat.”

Rates of more than 100 beats a minute are common for people with AF. AF can be alarming, but it’s not a sign of a heart attack. If you have an episode, call your doctor for a checkup and tests to measure your heart rate. Signs of AF can include:
  • An irregular pulse
  • A very rapid heartbeat or “fluttering” feeling in your chest
  • Feeling as if your heart is skipping a beat
  • A very slow heartbeat (fewer than 50 to 60 beats per minute) that causes dizziness, sweating, light-headedness, or fainting
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
The Stroke Connection
Seeing your doctor is even more important if you are older or have diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. People in these groupsare more prone to complications such as a heart attack or stroke. In fact, the American Heart Association estimates that your chances of a stroke are five times higher if you have AF. Lucas Z. Margolies, MD, at Lankenau Hospital neurologist, explains, “When the heart’s top chambers do not beat regularly, there is danger of clots forming from blood pooling. These clots can lead to a stroke or heart attack.”

How to Prevent— and Control—AF
Some factors can raise your chances of AF: other heart problems, chronic lung ailments, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, heavy alcohol or caffeine use and smoking. But adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can strengthen and protect your heart. Dr. Kowey notes, “Most people can control AF symptoms and prevent complications with blood-thinning medication, such as Coumadin, that regulates their heart rate and prevents blood clots.”

You’ll find more information on AF research and treatment options at
www.MainLineHealth.org/research.
 
Posted by Main Line Health on 2/6/2012 1:47:42 PM
Read more articles about: Lankenau, Lucas_Margolies_MD, Peter_Kowey_MD, Stroke, Heart

Racing Heart? It Could Mean A Risk for Stroke

In the past minute, your heart has probably beaten about 60 to 80 times—and you never gave it a thought. But for more than 2 million Americans with atrial fibrillation (AF), a normal heartbeat is nothing to take for granted. AF is the most common form of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.

According to Peter Kowey, MD, Chief of Cardiovascular Services for Main Line Health. “The culprit is a flaw in the heart’s electrical system, which maintains a regular beat. If something disrupts the electrical signals, the heart’s upper chambers, or atria, start to quiver. The result is an unsteady, often racing heartbeat.”

Rates of more than 100 beats a minute are common for people with AF. AF can be alarming, but it’s not a sign of a heart attack. If you have an episode, call your doctor for a checkup and tests to measure your heart rate. Signs of AF can include:
  • An irregular pulse
  • A very rapid heartbeat or “fluttering” feeling in your chest
  • Feeling as if your heart is skipping a beat
  • A very slow heartbeat (fewer than 50 to 60 beats per minute) that causes dizziness, sweating, light-headedness, or fainting
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
The Stroke Connection
Seeing your doctor is even more important if you are older or have diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. People in these groupsare more prone to complications such as a heart attack or stroke. In fact, the American Heart Association estimates that your chances of a stroke are five times higher if you have AF. Lucas Z. Margolies, MD, at Lankenau Hospital neurologist, explains, “When the heart’s top chambers do not beat regularly, there is danger of clots forming from blood pooling. These clots can lead to a stroke or heart attack.”

How to Prevent— and Control—AF
Some factors can raise your chances of AF: other heart problems, chronic lung ailments, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, heavy alcohol or caffeine use and smoking. But adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can strengthen and protect your heart. Dr. Kowey notes, “Most people can control AF symptoms and prevent complications with blood-thinning medication, such as Coumadin, that regulates their heart rate and prevents blood clots.”

You’ll find more information on AF research and treatment options at
www.MainLineHealth.org/research.
 
Posted by Main Line Health on 2/6/2012 1:47:42 PM
Read more articles about: Lankenau, Lucas_Margolies_MD, Peter_Kowey_MD, Stroke, Heart
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Comments
Susan W
This is the first time I ever heard that Coumadin regulates heart rate (in addition to preventing clots). Could you recommend an article on the topic?
Thanks!
Susan
4/3/2012 1:17:26 PM
 
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