Atrial Fibrillation. What is it? It’s a type of arrhythmia of the heart. In other words, there’s a problem with the speed and the pattern of the heart. See, the heart receives electrical signals that tell the chambers of the heart when to beat. When abnormal electrical signals are received for some reason, the upper heart chambers can beat up to 350-600 beats per minute while the bottom heart chambers can reach up to 150-200 beats per minute. That doesn’t sound right, does it? The chambers aren’t beating in sync and this causes an abnormal heart rhythm. In reality, what it does is to cause less blood than normal to be pumped in to the bottom chambers, which can allow the blood not being pumped out of the upper chambers to pool there and sometimes clot before it gets to the bottom chambers.
What are some of the symptoms, you ask? They can include a pounding, irregular heartbeat, a shortness of breath, tiredness, dizziness or fainting, and chest pain. I can indeed verify that, since the dizziness seems to have been fixed by changing medications, his symptoms have been reduced now to a shortness of breath and a feeling of tiredness. Yeah, that’s right; he just hasn’t been feeling up to doing much of anything around the house the past few months. Maybe that will change in the near future??? Mmmm, maybe not. Maybe not everything is a symptom of A-fib?
When can this happen? I’m so glad you asked. Usually it’s caused by a trigger. Caffeine, alcohol, and stress are the most common triggers and it tends to occur in episodes. Yeah, I’d say that all three of these could’ve cause Ed’s symptoms and I can vouch for the “episodes” … not that we’ve had a stressful year or anything.
Anyway, the echocardiogram last Wednesday showed how well the heart chambers work together. All we really found out was that the muscles of Ed’s heart are larger than normal. No, he does NOT have an enlarged heart! That’s what he thought the doctor was saying, but it wasn’t. The heart is not enlarged; the muscles of the heart are.
Now, the stress test will show how the chambers work together under pressure using a special machine that shows how the chemicals are moving through the heart during stress. Ed had this test this morning and tomorrow he has the same test but without the stress part. It will show the chemicals moving through the heart during rest.
After the test tomorrow, we wait for the results. That’s the hardest part for me, the waiting. A-fib can be treated but until they verify that this is the problem and start Ed on the treatment, he’s not better off now than he was a month ago. He is still at risk of other heart problems and stroke. Thankfully, they started him on the Coumadin which will help prevent a stroke until we figure this out.
More later, after we get the results of the stress tests back. I just don’t know how long that will take but I’m thinking of taking a sleeping bag to their waiting room, just in case.