Irregular heartbeat is more dangerous in younger people: study

A new study has found an irregular heartbeat that affects millions of Americans is more dangerous than people under the age of 65 than previously thought. 

Dr. Andrea Natale, executive medical director of the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David's Medical Center, joined FOX 7 Austin's Rebecca Thomas to discuss.

Rebecca Thomas: First, what is atrial fibrillation or AFib, and what does it do to the heart?

Dr. Andrea Natale: You know, so it would be if I had rhythm that occurs in the upper chamber and during that ABC radio fibrillation, that the upper chamber does not squeeze. So, people have a risk of a stroke. And also, if the heart rate is fast for an extended period of time, they can develop a failure. So really, the two major issues beyond quality of life, because sometimes people feel more fatigue, short of breath, they feel the rapid, rate. So beyond the quality of life, what we worry about is inflation is a stroke risk in our failure.

Rebecca Thomas: Now, a-fib typically is seen in people over the age of 55. What is causing the increase in cases among younger people?

Dr. Andrea Natale: So the way that we understand this today is that there is a baseline genetic predisposition. And then on the genetic predisposition, there are certain environmental situations that determine when the patient is going to clinically have decided, but the baseline is a genetic predisposition. And then it can be inflammation, blood pressure, sleep apnea, or being overweight. Cardiac surgery. There are a lot of potential events that can activate that predisposition. But really the baseline that those patients have is that genetic predisposition. 

Rebecca Thomas: So the study that I was referencing, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, found patients under 65 had higher rates of hospitalization for heart failure, stroke or heart attack. Why is that, do you think?

Dr. Andrea Natale: So it's not unusual. So the data on the fact that this information reduces longevity and this is associated with more cardiovascular ability and mortality is not new. This study was focused on the ambition problem, because people think that where they're younger probably is not going to impact on this group as much as the overall population. But actually, the results are consistent to what we've seen in many other population-based studies, like Framingham, Augusta County or other large cities. So patients with a cardiovascular disease where age of fibrillation always come up as an independent predictor of mortality and morbidity. So, yes. 

Rebecca Thomas: Yeah. How important is an early diagnosis? And then, how do you treat a-fib? 

Dr. Andrea Natale: It's very important because that's how you reduce people, do nothing until they develop the complication so that we see, some time patients come to us after they have a stroke, for example, they develop a failure. So you want to make sure that you detect this soon enough so that you can intervene. Now, the data support early intervention to maintain sinus rhythm, to actually reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality that a typical patient with a different relation. So early diagnosis is actually very, very important. 

Rebecca Thomas: Okay. We are out of time. Dr. Natale with the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David's Medical Center. Thank you so much for sharing your time and your expertise with us tonight.