YOU and Your Doctor Are Your Medical Team – May 2023

When I started writing my health column I said I would not give medical advice – I am still keeping my word on that. However, I do believe that the more we know about medical conditions and their early warning signs, we can keep ourselves healthier, and hopefully prevent more harm to our bodies. My choice of medical conditions will be those that may possibly affect many of us and might cause long lasting impact on our bodies. I will describe this basic information in layman terms and not be highly technical. I am limited to how many words for my column, so this is just a brief over-view. For those who may be experiencing any of these conditions, no doubt you and your doctor will have talked about these conditions in more expanded terms and language, than my written over-views.     

This medical condition topic is: Atrial Fibrillation. For brevity I will use the initials AF. First a quick look at your heart-in simple terms: It is a muscle that receives electrical impulses to tell it how often it needs to beat in a regular rhythm. The heart is made up of: (a) muscle walls, (b) blood vessels for itself and going to the rest of your body providing  nutrition, oxygen, and circulating back in a continuous flow (c) an “electrical system” that controls the rhythm and rate  of your heartbeat, (d) 4 chambers:  2 upper atrium and 2 lower ventricles – each with a specialized function and (e)  4 valves: the Tricuspid, Mitral, Aortic and Pulmonary – their role is to keep the blood  circulating in the correct direction and rate.

AF is a type of arrhythmia caused by extremely fast and irregular beats from the upper chambers of the heart. A normal heartbeat makes the upper atrium chambers and lower ventricle chambers work in synch. When there is a problem with the electrical impulses sent to the upper/atrium, the lower ventricles are then not coordinated with the upper/atrium, causing blood to accumulate.  When blood does not move out of the atrium correctly it may lead to clot formation and possibly a stroke if the clot starts moving within the circulatory system to the brain. A secondary problem with AF is that it may cause the lower chambers to beat too quickly and can cause heart failure. These are serious situations.  People with AF are five times more likely to have a stroke. Non-controlled high blood pressure raises the risk of irregular heart rhythm.

FYI: How to take your pulse: (a) at your neck : Press your first finger and middle finger to the soft hollow area at the  side of your neck, just under your jaw – don’t use your thumb. Press your skin lightly to feel your pulse – if you can’t find it, try pressing a little harder or move your fingers around for location; (b) at your wrist: With your palm up, use the tip of the index and third fingers of your other hand to feel the pulse in your radial artery between your wrist bone and the tendon on the thumb side of your wrist. Your radial pulse can be taken on either wrist. Apply just enough pressure so you can feel each beat. Do not push too hard or you will obstruct the blood flow and not feel the pulse. Using a clock or watch that counts seconds, count how many beats you feel in a minute, or count the beats over 30 seconds and multiply the number by 2 to determine how many beats a minute. Generally, symptoms can of AF include; unexplained extreme fatigue, an irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations, a feeling of butterflies or a fish flopping in your chest, unexplained dizziness or light headedness, fainting-syncope, shortness of breath-difficulty breathing (dyspnea), chest pain–angina.If you have symptoms, keep a list of when they happened; see your doctor immediately and give this information to him/her.  A suggestion: have a regular “general check-up” with your doctor, even if you are not “sick” – some people with AF may have no symptoms, until there is a problem.  Remember:  You and Your Doctor are a TEAM.

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Jackie Kellum

1 thought on “YOU and Your Doctor Are Your Medical Team – May 2023”

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    Marietta Bowler

    Hi Jackie. Good to hear from you. I had forgotten much on Atrial Fibrillation. Thanks for the info. Miss you.

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