Atrial Fibrillation: What Does that Quiver Mean?
One of the top cardiovascular problems I receive questions about from my readers is atrial fibrillation (AF). That’s not a surprise since more than 2.2 million Americans have this cardiovascular problem.
But there’s two things you need to understand if you have AF…
1. Uncontrolled AF (episodes longer than 24 hours, or extremely high or low heart rates) can place a considerable strain on your heart.
2. There’s also a risk that blood clots may form—which can lead to the most dreaded complication of AF: stroke.
That's why it's so important to be aware of AF and understand what it is.
So, what exactly is AF? It's a type of arrhythmia, or irregularity of the heartbeat—it’s one of the most common cardiovascular problems. It originates in the left or right atria, the two upper pumping chambers of the heart.
Normally, the atria fill with blood and contract, propelling this blood into the heart's two larger, lower chambers, the ventricles. The right ventricle contracts and ejects this blood to the lungs, where it is re-oxygenated. The blood then returns to the left atria where it is pumped to the left ventricle, and then the aorta, circulating oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.
What happens with AF is the heart’s normal electrical "pacemaker" is bombarded by competing electrical charges, which originate in the atria—hence the name, atrial fibrillation.
These competing impulses initiate chaotic muscle contractions, so instead of contracting forcefully to move the blood out, the atria quiver or "fibrillate." This can cause a loss of up to 30 percent of the "atrial kick" that contributes to the blood output of the heart, and can send heart rates up to 230 to 250 beats per minute!
What’s the cause of this common cardiovascular problem? AF has many causes including aging of the conduction system, enlarged atria, and inflammation of the heart muscle following cardiac surgery.
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Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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