According to the results of a new survey issued by the Heart Rhythm Society, one in three Americans indicated that if they felt their heart quiver or skip a beat they would ignore it or wait for it to happen again before taking action.
While most Americans are aware of atrial fibrillation (AF), many seem to be unable to identify it when it actually happens to them. Some may even ignore AF warning signs, placing their lives at risk.
AF is typically felt as a rapid and irregular heartbeat caused when the top chambers of the heart - known as the atria - quiver or fibrillate erratically, sometimes faster than 200 times per minute. Various people have described it feeling like drums pounding, thunder rumbling or fish flopping in the chest. AF can have a significantly negative impact on quality of life by causing heart palpitations, chronic fatigue and debilitating pain.
More than 60 percent of Americans correctly identified AF as a heart rhythm disorder. However, only 32 percent said they would consult a primary care physician and less than 10 percent said they would seek a referral from a heart specialist if they felt their hearts quiver or skip a beat.
Disturbingly, most said they would ignore it, wait for it to happen again or even wait for something more serious to occur.
While it is encouraging that awareness of AF is high, it is equally important that you recognize AF warning signs if it happens to you and take appropriate action immediately. It is vital to talk with your primary care physician because even very minor symptoms could have major health implications.
Here are five very good reasons to speak with your primary care physician about AF:
- AF affects more than 2.5 million American adults and 4.5 million people living in the European Union.
- AF significantly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, both leading causes of death in the US.
- The number of people diagnosed with AF in the US is expected to more than double in the next 30-40 years.
- AF requires treatment with medications, controlled electric shocks to the heart or specific procedures. Less often, a pacemaker may be implanted to monitor and control the heart's rhythm.
- Your primary care physician can refer you to a cardiologist who has additional education and training in the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal heart rhythms.
So the next time you feel your heart quiver or skip a beat - don’t ignore it or wait for it to happen again, but consult your physician right away.