You might refer to it as “my heart skipping a beat,” a “racing heart” or an “irregular heartbeat,” but physicians call it an arrhythmia. This means that sometimes the heart can beat too fast, too slow or out-of-sync. Whatever the issue, it can be debilitating when it causes you to miss out on your active lifestyle.

Some of the common symptoms of an arrhythmia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Decrease exercise tolerance
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting or near fainting

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm problem in which the upper chambers of your heart beat too fast. This can cause a blood clot to form in the left atrial appendage (LAA) - a small windsock shaped pouch on the top of your heart – which increases your chances of having a stroke and other problems. More than 90% of blood clots that cause stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation originate in the LAA. Atrial fibrillation increases your risk of stroke five to seven-fold.

How can you reduce your risk of stroke?

Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may recommend a blood thinner.

Anticoagulation (blood thinners)

Blood thinners such as Warfarin (Coumadin) or newer medications, such as Apixaban (Eliquis), Dabigatran (Pradaxa) or Rivaroxaban (Xarelto) reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation. However, some patients cannot take blood thinners due to prior bleeding difficulties or risk of future bleeding. Left atrial appendage closure (LAAC)  with the WATCHMAN device has been approved by the FDA as a non-drug alternative to reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation. Patients with an increased risk for stroke who are suitable for short-term blood thinning, but unable to take blood thinners long-term, are candidates for this procedure.

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