In "I Really Love You," when George Harrison declared "my heart skips a beat," he was describing a sudden heart flutter that signals a surge of romantic passion. But if your doctor says your heart is skipping a beat, it may mean you have (or are headed for) atrial fibrillation or A fib.
A fib is a disturbed heart rhythm that happens when rapid, erratic electrical signals make the heart's two upper chambers (called atria) contract quickly and irregularly. Sometimes you can feel it - but not always - and the problem may come and go or be persistent. For most folks, it ups the risk of stroke and heart failure.
Drugs to control your heart rate and rhythm, blood thinners to reduce the risk of blood clots, and procedures that deliver low-energy shocks to the heart may treat the condition. But now a new study reveals that lifestyle changes can slash symptoms without using drugs.
Overweight people with A fib went on an eight-week, physician-led program to reduce underlying triggers of A fib: elevated levels of blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and blood sugar; sleep apnea; and tobacco and excess alcohol use. The participants saw a "substantial reduction" in A fib severity and symptoms.
So, if you're diagnosed with A fib, talk to your doctor about starting a well-monitored program to lose weight if you need to and to reduce those A fib triggers. And start today. (A fib gets harder to reverse the longer you have it)! Then you and your true love can enjoy the flutter of your heartbeats for years to come.
© King Features Syndicate