(Tulsa, Okla.)  Atrial fibrillation, commonly referred to as A Fib, is the most common heart rhythm disorder. A Fib affects more than 2 million Americans and that number is expected to multiply as our population ages. In addition to negatively impacting quality of life, A Fib increases the risk of developing a stroke by 500 percent.

    To educate Americans about A Fib, September has been named Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month.

    A Fib is characterized by a rapid and irregular heartbeat caused when the top chambers of the heart, or the atria, quiver, or fibrillate, erratically, sometimes faster than 200 times per minute. The condition can greatly decrease quality of life, causing fatigue, dizziness and breathing difficulties. In addition to stroke, A Fib can also lead to congestive heart failure.

    Although A Fib is common, the condition is often overlooked and the symptoms are blamed on other, less serious conditions. The good news about A Fib is that once diagnosed, treatment can return the heart to a normal rhythm, preventing blood clots and stroke.

    Until recently, an open-heart surgical procedure was the only alternative for people unable to control the condition with medication or a pacemaker. Today, Oklahoma Heart Institute (OHI) offers a number of treatment options for A Fib, including minimally-invasive and non-surgical alternatives.

    OHI is the only hospital in the region with multiple heart rhythm specialists at its Advanced Center for Atrial Fibrillation. And, this September, the heart rhythm specialists at OHI want to educate the community about A Fib, its symptoms and the treatment options available.

    Oklahoma Heart Institute, located on the campus of Hillcrest Medical Center, is the state’s largest hospital dedicated exclusively to heart disease. The hospital provides a full range of cardiovascular services including a comprehensive Cardiovascular Diagnostic Center, Cardiovascular Interventional and Electrophysiology Laboratories, Pre- and Post-Cardiac Cath Lab Procedure Beds, a Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, Cardiac Telemetry Beds, a Heart Failure CARE Center, Cardiovascular Research program and an Education Center.

For more information about Oklahoma Heart Institute, please visit www.oklahomaheart.com.

What does A Fib feel like and what are the symptoms?

*    Thunder rumbling in your chest

*   Drums pounding in your chest

*    Fish flopping in your chest

*    Frequent palpitations (the feeling that your heart has skipped a beat)

*    Shortness of breath after climbing steps or exerting yourself

*    A decrease in your ability to exercise

*    Chest pain

*    Episodes of dizziness or fainting

What are the risk factors for A Fib?

Some people who are healthy and have no other medical problems do develop AF.  The most common causes and risk factors include:

*    Older than 60 years of age

*    Diabetes

*    Heart problems, including: high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure and more

*    Thyroid disease

*    Chronic lung disease

*    Sleep apnea

*    Excessive alcohol or stimulant use

*    Serious illness or infection