More than five million Americans are estimated to have atrial fibrillation, an irregular rhythm originating from the upper chambers of the heart. At a lunch and learn on May 23, area residents learned more about this condition from J. Lee Grigsby, MD, FACC, the Valley’s first full time cardiologist serving at the SLV Health. His presentation was part of SLV Health’s regular free monthly education series on prevention, health conditions, and procedures.
Incidence of AF
“As we get older, the incidence of atrial fibrillation becomes more frequent,” explained Dr. Grigsby. “A common symptom of atrial fibrillation is shortness of breath, for example if you find yourself short-winded while trying to retrieve your mail in the morning.”
Atrial fibrillation causes the lower chambers to beat irregularly with a pulse ranging from 60 to 180 beats per minute. Symptoms include palpitation, shortness of breath, chest pain, and exercise intolerance. Dr. Grigsby explained that there are many conditions and habits that can exacerbate atrial fibrillation. “I’ve heard people say, ‘I’ve had five cans of energy drinks today and my heart is pounding.’ I wonder why.” He said that stimulants like energy drinks containing caffeine can adversely affect a person’s heart rate and blood pressure.
Additionally, using decongestants, illicit drugs, and supplements or other naturopathic compounds can exacerbate atrial fibrillation. “Naturopathic compounds, like supplements, are not necessarily good for you,” said Dr. Grigsby. “Make sure to check references and learn about them before you add supplements to your diet.”
Individuals suffering from atrial fibrillation have a variety of options, ranging from lifestyle modifications to medication to surgery. Occasionally, it is necessary to try to return the patient’s rhythm to normal rhythm. This can sometimes be achieved with shocking the heart into normal rhythm. Prior to doing this, a Trans esophageal Echocardiogram is often utilized to verify there are no clots present in the upper chamber of the heart, so as to avoid the risk of stroke from the clot.
Heart Health for Life
To learn more about SLV Health’s regular education series, call 719-589-1209.