LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 2.7 million American's are living with a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation. It occurs when the upper chamber of the heart quivers instead of beating normally.
Experts say treating this condition is vital, because it can lead to other serious heart problems.
"My heart would just start racing and I would kind of lose my breath and usually it only lasted for a couple of seconds. But as I got older, they got progressively worse and more frequent," said Robin Drabant.
Drabant has dealt with a rhythm disturbance known as atrial fibrillation, or AFib, since she was a teenager.
"AFib is when the electricity in the upper chambers also become degraded and then you have every area in the upper chamber kind of working on its own," explained Southwest Oklahoma Heart and Vascular Center cardiologist Dr. Bassam Saliba.
Dr. Saliba says atrial fibrillation is most commonly found in older adults over the age of 65.
"The older you are, the more likely you are to have AFib. In an 80-year-old, the incidence of AFib is between 11 and 13 percent, while in a 50-year-old it is less than two percent," Dr. Saliba said.
Symptoms can go unnoticed for some, but others may feel things like racing, fluttery heart beats or palpitations, dizziness, sweating, weakness or fainting. AFib is not necessarily life threatening by itself, but it can lead to another serious condition.
"This is the problem with AFib that you are at an increased risk of a stroke, and it is 4.5 percent per year," Dr. Saliba said.
Treatments include medications, surgery or implanting a pacemaker; all in an effort to get the heart beating in a normal rhythm and to prevent the onset of other heart problems. Like most cardiovascular conditions, prevention is key. So, manage diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol by eating a heart healthy diet and increasing physical activity, and of course, avoid alcohol and tobacco.
In other health news, Comanche County Memorial Hospital will host a weight loss options luncheon on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 11:30 a.m. in the Oakwood Conference Center. The cost is $5 and includes a healthy lunch. The guest speaker will be bariatric surgeon Dr. Michael Sawyer. He will be discussing innovative weight loss options. For more information and to make a reservation, call 580-585-5406.