Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dr. Daniel van Buren Speaks on Atrial Fibrillation

Last Thursday, February 4, Dr. Daniel van Buren spoke at a To Your Health presentation on Atrial Fibrillation (AF). AF is an abnormal heart rhythm affecting 33.5 million adults in the U.S., with 5 million new cases each year. Seven percent of everyone over the age of 65 is affected.  AF is responsible for 15% of all strokes.

Individuals with AF have a problem with the heart's electrical system. Very simply, disorganized electrical activity in the upper chambers causes the lower chambers to beat erratically. Blood is not pumped properly, which results in the formation of clots, hence the greatly increased risk of stroke.

Symptoms of AF include palpitations, shortness of breath, racing heart, general malaise and fatigue. Some experience no symptoms at all. AF is diagnosed with an EKG. Dr. van Buren described the EKG as showing a heartbeat that is “irregularly irregular.”

Because of the increased risk of stroke, medication that inhibits clot formation is usually prescribed. Traditionally that drug has been warfarin. But warfarin requires a great deal of tweaking and monitoring, which has led to under treatment. Newer drugs are now available that have proven to be at least as effective as warfarin, at least as safe, and do not require constant monitoring. The downside with any blood thinner is the risk of bleeding, but in the case of preventing stroke the benefits outweigh the risks.

An interesting new development is the Watchman Device. Most clots form in the left atrial appendage. The Watchman Device is inserted over the opening to the appendage to prevent blood from entering and clots from forming.

Jackie Cressy, Jan Stowell, Dr. van Buren and Rosabelle Tifft.
The thirty-five people in attendance asked many questions, which Dr. van Buren graciously answered.

The next To Your Health presentation, “Is Your Tummy Talking to You?” will be held on Thursday, March 3 from 4:30 – 6:00 at the West Parish Congregational Church.  It is free and open to the public.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at http://sad44.maineadulted.org/western_mountains_senior_college