Atrial fibrillation, also called AFib or AF, is the most common irregular heart rhythm in the United States where 2.7 to 6.1 million Americans are living with this dangerous condition. Here’s AFib explained, the risks, and how this one food affects these abnormal heart beats.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular heart rhythm caused by abnormal electrical signals in the upper chambers of the heart.
AFib is on the rise because the older you are, the greater the risk of developing AFib. Finding effective ways to prevent AFib and identify treatments for AFib is a public health priority.
Typically someone one with AFib has to take a blood-thinner to prevent blood clots from forming and reduce stroke risk. Blood thinners can have dangerous side effects, such as severe bleeding, coughing up blood, bruising without an injury, and dizziness.
High Blood Pressure Link
If you have high blood pressure, AFib needs to be on your radar. People with high blood pressure (which usually occurs with advancing age) accounts for 14% to 22% of AFib cases.
Health Effects from Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
Atrial fibrillation is dangerous. It is a risk factor for:
Stroke — 4 to 5 times higher risk compared with people without AFib. Strokes caused by AFib complications tend to be more severe than strokes with other underlying causes.
Do you get short of breath when you bend forward, such as to tie your shoelaces or put on a sock? If so, here’s what this symptom could mean and why you shouldn’t ignore it.
What this Symptom Could Mean
If you bend forward and get short of breath, do NOT ignore this symptom! This symptom was recently coined as “bendopnea” (pronounced bend-op-nee-ah). This symptom could be a sign of heart failure.
A study of 102 heart failure patients showed bendopnea was present in 28% of their subjects (29 out of 102 subjects). When bending over, the average time it took for these symptoms to appear was eight seconds. Some patients thought their bendopnea was due to being out of shape or overweight, but were more likely to have other symptoms of advanced disease.
Try this test: Sit down and bend forward at the waist. Are you short of breath within 30 seconds? If you have “bendopnea”, you have:
What is Heart Failure?
Heart failure, often referred to as congestive heart failure or (CHF), is a serious condition, but people often mistakenly think that it means that the heart has stopped beating.
Heart failure occurs when one or more chambers of the heart “fail” to keep up with the volume of blood flowing through them. The heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to maintain blood flow to other organs in your body. The reoxygenated blood from your lungs starts building up inside your lungs when your heart can’t keep up with ejecting it to other organs in need.
The buildup of blood causes fluid (mainly water) to leak from the small blood vessels (capillaries). That is, the arms, lungs, legs, feet, ankles, and other organs become “congested” with blood and fluid which explains how “congestive heart failure” got its name.
VIDEO: You may think you’re one of the lucky ones who can eat unlimited bags of chips and other troves of salt; and yet, it doesn’t affect your blood pressure. But according to research published in the American College of Cardiology, excess sodium can adversely affect other target organs even if you don’t have hypertension.
Studies show elevated sodium levels can cause the inner lining of blood vessels (called the endothelium) to “malfunction”. The following occurs as a result:
Vessels stiffen. Arteries that become less elastic and lose their contractility (ability to fully contract and relax) make it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. Eventually, the heart wears out (heart failure).
Vessels becomesticky. Think of the lining of your blood vessels as being slick like Teflon. An unhealthy endothelium is sticky like Velcro and causes plaque to attach. Plaque builds up in the brain too — leading to Alzheimer’s.
The body breeds dangerous inflammation. Inflammation may cause plaque inside blood vessels to crack, rupture, and dislodge from arterial walls. The body responds like with any other injury by causing blood to clot. Clots clog up vessel freeways and block blood flow to the heart (heart attack) or brain (stroke). Inflammation is also the key reason behind why heart attacks are more likely to occur after getting the flu.
NOTE: Eating too much sugar can have the same effect on the endothelium as an excessive intake of sodium.
Research found that elevated sodium levels may increase the wall thickness of the heart’s main pumping chamber (left ventricle). This thickening can lead to cardiac issues, such as:
Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
Sudden cardiac arrest (sudden loss of heart function)
Heart failure (inability of the heart to pump enough blood throughout the body)
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for this muscle tissue enlargement, but it was also found in healthy people with NORMAL blood pressure who consumed high amounts of sodium.
If you’ve been managing your blood pressure, you’re probably well aware of its high’s and low’s. You delight in a low blood pressure, but when your diastolic pressure (represented by the bottom number in your blood pressure reading) is low, you may be at risk for the following:
New-onset heart failure
Increased mortality if you have chronic kidney disease
Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure within your arteries as it flows through them. It’s the pressure between heartbeats, that is, when your heart is at rest. Your systolic blood pressure (represented by the top number in your blood pressure reading) measures the amount of pressure that your blood exerts on vessels when your heart contracts or ‘beats’.
Isolated Diastolic Hypotension
“Isolated diastolic hypotension” (IDH) is a condition that occurs when your diastolic blood pressure is low (less than 60 mm Hg), but your systolic blood pressure is 100 mm Hg and above.
If you’ve been congratulated for having a good systolic blood pressure (less than 120 mm Hg — or even less than 130 mm Hg), don’t be so quick to start your celebratory dance. What’s your diastolic blood pressure? Many clinicians don’t consider a low diastolic blood pressure reading as problematic. Continue reading “When a Lower Blood Pressure is NOT Better”→
In “The #1 Biggest Mistake That Affects Blood Pressure Readings“, wrong blood pressure cuff size topped the list as one of the most frequent errors made when measuring blood pressure. Be conscious of the following factors the next time you get a blood pressure reading. They can affect it by 5 to 50 points, and artificially high or low readings could affect your medical treatment.
1. Arm Position
Your palm should be facing up and your arm should be supported and horizontal at the level of the midpoint of your sternum (chest bone) which is at the approximate level of the right atrium of your heart. It may be necessary to place a pillow under your arm or adjust the chair or table to achieve the correct position.
If your upper arm is BELOW the level of the right atrium, your blood pressure readings will be too high (blood is flowing down into the arm).
If the upper arm is ABOVE heart level, the readings will be too low (blood is flowing down from the arm).
Researchers studied a group of outpatients to determine the effects of arm position on blood pressure measurements. Blood pressures were taken and compared in the following arm positions:
Sitting with arms hanging down and elbows resting on the armrests of a chair (i.e., the elbow is at a right angle)
Sitting with arms supported at the level of the mid-sternum
The results showed that blood pressure readings were significantly higher when sitting with arms on the armrest of the chair. Readings can be over 10 mm Hg higher in both systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number) pressures.
In another study of 100 random emergency room patients, blood pressures were compared in two positions: 1) Arm lax and hanging down parallel to the body and 2) Arm in the “correct” position. Among the seated patients, 22% of them were diagnosed with hypertension, but twice as many patients were diagnosed with high blood pressure with the arm hanging down. Be sure to note the position of your arm whenever a clinician takes your blood pressure. Continue reading “10 Factors That Affect Blood Pressure Readings”→