A quick video sums it all.
So basically, heart consists of four so-called chambers. The upper ones, where the blood enters, are called the Atria. That’s a really fancy name and it has a lovely feature I like in many of my favorite Latin words: it is the plural form of a singular called Atrium -see also phenomenon and phenomena.
Okay, so how does those chambers work? If you watched the above video, I have no idea why you’re still reading this. To sum it up -cuz I really don’t know much further than the sum-up anyways, the blood enters the heart from the Atria, that contracts and forces the blood into the Ventricles (the other two chambers). The blood is now distributed and goes to its destined journey to distribute whatever it is meant to distribute. The rest of the journey is not that relevant in our current context. That little bloody pump contractions (literally: heart beats) are controlled with electrical impulses originating from the Sinoatrial node (SA node) (AKA the heart’s natural pacemaker) and via the Electrical Conduction system of the heart. Pretty cool huh? But as you know, like all other systems complicated or not, it does fail sometimes.
So, introducing the Atrial Fibrillation. The signal is no longer originating from the SA node, and the Atria are no longer in sync. Picture a person with no skills whatsoever in dancing, in a club (or let’s say a wedding party, we’re in a strict state) that tries too hard to put up dance moves with the beats. Trying too hard only gets you more off-beat (trust me, I know!), and it is an ugly picture if you know what I mean. Now the walls of the Atria (that lousy dancer) is contracting in a more rapid way (read: more chaotic way), hence the name fibrillation. Now we’re out of sync, and blood is not emptied or moved efficiently to the Ventricles. See the problem? yes! That’s a good way for blood clots to form, and what place for an ambition blood clot to form better than the heart itself? And now my friend, we’re in the [very] fast track to a stroke.. Lovely right?
So, what does the person with A-fib feel? I thought you’ll never ask…
- Irregular heart pulse. That’s literally what is happening (duh!).
- Dizziness and lightheadedness. Fainting maybe?
- Pain in the chest.
- Shortness in breathing (!).
- Weakness. General fatigue. Extra of it.
The bad news is, you might not have any symptom as well, and the doctor may only find out via a routine medical check. Usually A-fib is common for those who are 60 years old or older. But no discrimination against the youngsters, anyone can have it as well. If a person had a history of other heart problems or had a heart surgery before, that increases the odds. Other medical conditions might lead to it, and some research indicates genetic causes of it as well. It sometimes is linked to heavy Alcohol, drugs, and caffeine use too.
Usually A-fib is diagnosed by doing ECG (fun fact: ECG and EKG are synonyms. They both stand for electrocardiogram). A Holter monitor could be used to get a bigger picture for a few days. But you know the drill: once the doctor needs some tests, he’ll need them all. Blood tests, chest X-Ray, ECG, CT scans, MRI, and maybe a stress test. You can’t argue that more data is better, but for 80 years old people in this country? C’mon!
But, is all people with A-fib the same? Are there any types for that thing? Actually, I couldn’t find any classification for this in accordance to what caused it, only in accordance to how long you have it (or you’ll have it):
- Paroxysmal A-fib: a short term thingie. Your heart does it randomly for a few minutes and it’s all over in less than a week then it’s back rocking that dance floor like it’s Usher again. Speaking of dance floors, this type is nicknamed as ‘holiday heart syndrome’ cuz it’s usually associated with healthy people who have been going extra for some time (celebrating, late nights, drinks if you’re into that kind of things, …). Stress can get you there as well.
- Persistent A-fib: Lasts longer than a week. Usually you’ll get some medicine and you might need a reset for your heart (an actual reset: low voltage current into your heart to reset that async-ed monster you call heart. The good news is that you’ll be sedated so you won’t feel it).
- Long standing persistent A-fib: Lasts longer than a year, and probably will need a surgery.
- Permanent A-fib: can’t be corrected. You’ll need medication to control it and reduce the risk of a stroke.
Treatment for A-fib is where I guess I went too far and need to put a disclaimer. I’m not anything near a doctor. As a matter of fact, the first time I ever heard any of the words Atria, Fibrillation, SA node, or just about anything that is written in this post is less than three hours ago. This blog post is merely a psychological defense mechanism I do when I feel I’m backed to a corner. I am in a corner right now, so I really needed this. I won’t dignify any of what I said here by putting sources as all that can be found by googling and clicking on the first WebMD links. It’s not meant for anybody to read, let alone to learn or do anything from it. If your fav search engine brought you here, I really hope you go away. Read my bio and other posts to know how far away I am from all of that.
And with that being said, here comes the beta blockers and calcium channel blockers to slow the heart rates and ease the contractions, Sodium and Potassium channel blockers to bring the heart rhythm back to normal, and blood thinners (anticoagulants and antiplatelets). Surgery and heart reset as mentioned above are powerful tools as well. A maze procedure can be performed if you’re having an open heart surgery, where the surgeon creates scar tissues that block the abnormal electrical signals that causes A-fib. It’s a really cool technique where they use radio waves, freezing, Microwave, or ultrasound energy to create that scar tissues to guide electrical signals through a controlled path (hence, maze) to the ventricles. Pretty cool huh?
On a last note, it’s been noticed that healthy life style, limiting Alcohol and caffeine, and exercise have an enormous preventive effect on almost all heart diseases. We all know that. Why don’t we all do it then? It’s like we want to destruct ourselves on purpose…
Let’s protect our beloved ones. We are all what they have…