Bryan Heart shines light on A-Fib Awareness Month

Bryan Heart shines light on epidemic of 'A-Fib' during A-Fib Awareness Month
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 8:13 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The thumping of a heart is the white noise behind every human action. But when that thumping gets off rhythm, it can lead to strokes or even death.

Atrial fibrillation--or A-Fib--has quickly become a common medical diagnosis in the U.S. and in Lincoln. More than 5 million Americans struggle with the heart rhythm disorder, and that number is expected to grow to 12 million by the end of the decade.

Mark Epp says A-Fib snuck up on him.

“I’m a kind of guy who takes two stairs at a time up the stairs,” Epp said. “And at the top of the stairs where I work at talent plus, I was a little out of breath. And it was unusual for me.”

Mark had open heart surgery for a valve issue in the 1990′s, but he’d spent his life on the move since then. He regularly exercised and avoided unhealthy foods. So after that climb up the stairs, he needed answers.

“I did talk to my general physician at that particular time, and that’s when they discovered that I was actually in atrial fibrillation,” he said.

A-Fib is when the two upper chambers of the heart begin to beat out of rhythm with the lower chambers. When this occurs, blood can congeal and cause a stroke.

“When you have A-Fib because you don’t have a forceful contraction of your top chambers,” Dr. Robert Percell said. “Your top chambers are just quivering. So the blood that’s going through there tends to coagulate and cause clots. These clots can break off and cause a stroke.”

People who have A-Fib are 5 times more likely to have a stroke and 10 times more likely to die from that stroke. It’s also more common in those over 60.

Mark, who’s in his 60′s, started getting treatment for A-Fib at Bryan Health a couple of years ago. Their heart hospital treats around 15,000 patients with the condition every year.

Treating A-Fib can involve shocking the heart back into a regular rhythm. Percell specializes in ablation, which is heating or freezing around the veins.

Preventing electrical signals from causing the disorder. Mark received his second ablation a few months ago and says he feels much better. He stressed that people should take close stock of their health.

“Listen to yourself. Listen to your body,” Epp said. “Be in tune with it. And don’t ignore it. Check it out if you feel that something is uncomfortable.”

Percell said A-Fib is an epidemic right now, and while no one can avoid the risk factor of aging, you can avoid other risk factors by not smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet, and staying active.