It’s heart month, so we’re going to continue talking to cardiologists at the Heart and Vascular Center in Lawton at Comanche County Memorial Hospital about different issues of the heart and how to prevent them.

Cardiologist Karen Clark talked with us about atrial fibrillation, often called AFib.

“It is usually a very fast irregular rhythm,” Dr. Clark said. “And typically, it is not life-threatening, but it has some life-threatening complications from it. Specifically, it can cause strokes.”

Dr. Clark said it’s the most common arrhythmia in patients 60 and older. She says typical symptoms are people feeling palpitations or chest pains as their heart is beating fast.

“They can also have shortness of breath, and even some patients have had where they almost passed out from it,” she said. “And some people have no symptoms whatsoever. It’s just found on a coincidental EKG that they have done at their primary care physician’s office.”

Dr. Clark says an EKG will show if someone has AFib.

“What you’ll see on that is you’ll see there are no clearly discernible, normal P waves which are the upper chambers of the heart beating,” Dr. Clark said. “And then it’s going to have very fast rhythm on the bottom part of the heart.”

Dr. Clark said in the younger population two preexisting things seem to trigger AFib more often than other things. Thyroid disease and… “the second most common thing is Red Bulls and Monster drinks,” she said. “The youngest person I ever had that was in atrial fibrillation was about 25, and he was drinking about six of those a day.”

She said if this is the first time, many will convert on their own within 24 hours, and they don’t have to do anything, but if they don’t, they’ll have to be on long-term blood thinners. During AFib, the heart rate can range between 120 and 200 beats per minute. She said it’s not a life-threatening condition, but there are complications from it.

“Specifically, as the upper chambers are fibrillating, and that’s where fibrillation comes from for the name, it can form clots in there,” Dr. Clark said. “Those clots can break off and go anywhere, and one of the worse care scenarios is when it goes to the brain and causes a stroke.”

Dr. Clark said the two biggest things people can do to prevent it from happening are eating a healthy diet and exercising.