Atlanta, Ga. (September 21, 2012) – Atrial fibrillation (commonly called AFib) is a growing epidemic that affects nearly 69,000 people in Georgia and 2.6 million across the U.S., according to the AF Stat, a working group advocating for atrial fibrillation awareness; however, many more go undiagnosed.
While AFib doubles the risk of death from heart-related causes, increases the risk of stroke five-fold, and raises the risk of hospitalization, many patients do not understand the serious, often deadly health issues associated with the disease.
“Atrial fibrillation is a totally disorganized and chaotic rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart,” explains Andy Wickliffe, M.D., an electrophysiologist at Piedmont Heart Institute. “It tends to make the lower chambers, or ventricles, beat fast and irregularly.”
That disorganized and chaotic rhythm is exactly what Fayetteville resident Ray Crisp had felt for years before he went in to a hospital for back surgery and doctors discovered he suffered from atrial fibrillation.
“You can be sitting around watching TV and all of a sudden, it feels like your heart is pounding out of your chest. You get a really rapid heartbeat, start feeling bad and get short of breath,” said Crisp. “This went on for years and I kind of got used to it. I didn’t know I was actually suffering from AFib.”
Other symptoms of AFib include dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue when exercising and chest pain or pressure, according to the American Heart Association. To correct atrial fibrillation, a doctor may perform an ablation, using a catheter to go into the heart and destroy the tissue that is causing the irregularity.
“If you bounce in and out of AFib, that’s when you start worrying about having a stroke or getting a blood clot,” said Crisp. “We decided we had to do something. Ablation was pretty much my only option.”
Today, Crisp says he can do just about anything he could when he was 30 years old and has had a normal heart rhythm for seven or eight years. For more information about atrial fibrillation or to schedule an appointment for an evaluation, call 404.605.2800 or visit piedmonheart.org.