Dr Thomas Wallace Talks About Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)

As seen on KATV

Dr. Thomas Wallace, Electrophysiologist with CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute, talks about the symptoms, risks and treatments for Atrial Fibrillation (AFib). Approximately 33.5 million people around the world have an arrhythmia called Atrial Fibrillation or AFib. When left untreated, AFib can lead to serious complications like stroke and heart failure.

What causes atrial fibrillation (AFib) and who is most at risk?
The causes of atrial fibrillation mainly is age. I will tell patients that I think of atrial fibrillation as usually a consequence of an aging heart. Like our skin wrinkles. Our hair turns gray and as our heart gets older scar tissue may begin to set in the chambers of the heart may get stiffer and less compliant and the triggers of atrial fibrillation
become more and more present.

So, really the number one cause I would say is age but other things that contribute to it high blood pressure, diabetes, valvular heart disease, an overactive thyroid, excessive
alcohol intake, terrible sleep apnea,obesity.

What are the symptoms of atrial fibrillation (AFib)?
Everybody presents differently with atrial fibrillation. I would say that the in a younger patient we'll see them coming in complaining of a racing heart, palpitations, fluttering of flipping and flopping in the chest like a hummingbird's in the chest. They may have
shortness of breath. As you age, we may see people complain of breathlessness or just fatigue. They have atrial fibrillation and their heart rates may not get as fast as it needs to get when they walk up a flight of stairs or up a hill and they're short of breath. 

What's the difference between atrial fibrillation and having a heart attack?
That's a good question. The classic symptoms of a heart attack are a severe heavy chest pressure in the middle of your chest that may or may not move to your shoulder or your arms with breathlessness, maybe nausea and sweating, a sense of doom. You may you may look gray or ashen. Whereas someone with atrial fibrillation, they come in their complaints are not so much that deep substernal chest pressure, heaviness, but rather a racing heart a flipping, a flopping and maybe breathlessness with that. 

Learn more about Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) and the CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute