Question: My father died at age 91 of atrial fibrillation. My older sister died of the same thing at age 66. My younger sister, age 62, has now been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. I’ve never noticed any problems with my own heartbeat. I am a 75 year old male. Should I be tested for atrial fibrillation?
Dr. Hibberd's answer:
Although atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat itself usually isn't life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment. An increased risk of atrial fibrillation runs in some families, and the older you are, the greater your risk of developing atrial fibrillation. Sometimes, symptoms might just be absent. Hence, it is always a good thing to visit your doctor because of your strong family history of atrial fibrillation. If you ever have chest pain, seek emergency medical assistance immediately because it could signal that you are having a heart attack. You can reduce or eliminate caffeinated and alcoholic beverages from your diet, because they can sometimes trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation. Adopt lifestyle changes that improve the overall health of your heart, especially to prevent or treat conditions such as high blood pressure. Eat heart-healthy foods, less salt, remain physically active, and quit smoking.