Why you shouldn’t ignore that fluttering feeling in your chest

But you shouldn’t ignore it, as it could be an increasingly common heart problem that could raise your risk for stroke by up to five times.

You might feel like a fluttering in your chest or lightheaded feeling could be a passing moment that you’ll get over.

About 2% of Americans under age 65 and 9% over that age have a type of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Known as AFib, the condition means that blood isn’t flowing property from the top chambers of your heart, and it’s becoming more common as the U.S. population gets older. It contributes to 130,000 deaths each year.

Left untreated, you’re five times more likely to have a stroke, and strokes for people with AFib can be more severe, according to the CDC.

Dr. Arshad Jahangir, a cardiovascular specialist and medical director of the Center for Advanced Atrial Fibrillation therapies based at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis., describes what symptoms might mean you have AFib:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular and fast pulse
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Easily fatigued

“Don’t ignore these warning symptoms,” Dr. Jahangir says.

If feelings of these symptoms come and go quickly, Dr. Jahangir says you should tell your doctor. If you are feeling sudden chest pain, shortness of breath or dizziness that lasts for more than 10 minutes, you should seek immediate help, he says.

Factors that could increase your risk for AFib include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heavy alcohol use and presence of underlying heart disease.

Dr. Jahangir says that many patients can get AFib under control with medicine and lifestyle changes, especially if it’s treated early. Other treatment options are available and should be discussed with your physician.

“The most important thing is to find this early so we can treat it and it doesn’t cause something more serious, like a stroke or heart failure,” Dr. Jahangir says.

Want to learn more about your heart health and your risks for heart disease? Take our free, quick heart risk assessment online by clicking here. And to learn more if you live in Illinois, click here. For Wisconsin, click here.

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