Monday, June 13, 2011

afib, Atrial fibrillation

n Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib) the upper part of your heart beats (quivers) faster than the rest of your heart. If you could look inside your chest, the top part of your heart would be shaking like Jell-OGraphic of Vibrating Heart or beating more rapidly than the lower section of your heart. You feel an uncomfortable flutter in your chest or like your heart is going to jump out of your ribs or that your heart is "flip-flopping around." Your pulse is irregular and/or more rapid than normal. Someone described their A-Fib as " a motor idling too fast in my chest." Or "like I had a maniacal bass drummer hidden away in my chest." You may feel lightheaded (fainting), very tired, have shortness of breath, sweating and chest pain, swelling in your legs, and sometimes a distressing need for frequent urination (probably because of the release of atrial natriuretic peptide [ANP]. 
Your whole heart, however, does not beat 300-600 times per minute. Your heart is a muscular pump divided into four chambers---two atria located on the top and two ventricles on the bottom. Normally each heart beat starts in the right atrium where a specialized group of cells called the Sinus Node generates an electrical signal that travels down a single electrical road (the AV Node or AV Junction) that connects the atria to the ventricles below. This electrical signal causes the heart to beat. First, the atria coInside of Heart with Sinus and AV Nodesntract, pumping blood into the ventricles. Then, a fraction of a second later. the ventricles contract sending blood throughout the body. Normally the heart beats at 60-80 times per minute. When a doctor or nurse takes your pulse, he/she is counting contractions of your ventricles.
    In A-Fib, electrical signals from other parts of the heart disrupt your heart's normal rhythm and cause the atria to beat or quiver on their own sometimes as rapidly as 600 times a minute. However, only a small number of these atrial beats make it through the AV Node which acts like a gate to the ventricles. This is fortunate, because you couldn't live with a heart beat that rapid. But some A-Fib beats do make it through the AV Node and make your whole heart beat irregularly and/or faster than normal.

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