Atrial fibrillation (often called “A-fib” or AF) is the most common type of abnormal heartbeat. In a normal heartbeat, the four chambers of the heart work in a steady, rhythmic way. With atrial fibrillation, disorganized electrical signals cause the upper two chambers of the heart (the atria) to quiver and contract too rapidly in irregular rhythm and high heart rate, ranging between 100 to 175 beats per minute

stock-photo-58703734-loving-senior-african-american-coupleOver 2.2 million Americans are afflicted with the disease and its incidence is increasing, in part, related to increasing age of the population. AF is a particularly common in older individuals. At age 70, the incidence of atrial fibrillation is 5% (1 in 20). At 80 years of age 1 in 10 (10%) will develop AF. The most important fact that you need to know about atrial fibrillation is that one third of all debilitating strokes in the United States are caused by untreated AF. For this reason, if you suspect AF, due to a fast and irregular heart rhythm, you should seek medical help without delay.

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AF is caused by abnormal, rapid and irregular electrical activation of the upper chambers (atria) of the heart. Although the atria are activated hundreds of times per minute, many of the impulses generated are blocked at the level of the atrioventricular (AV) node, the safety valve of the heart, and are not transmitted to the main pumping chambers of the heart (ventricles). The pulses that succeed in making it through the AV node causing an irregular rhythm and high heart rate, ranging between 100 to 175 beats per minute. Less commonly, particularly in the presence of drugs, a large impulses may be blocked within the AV node, causing abnormally slow heart rates. Although both abnormally slow and rapid rates can be problematic, AF is usually not life-threatening, so long as both patient seeks proper treatment.

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The Masonic Medical Research Laboratory (MMRL), has been at the forefront of research into treatments for atrial fibrillation. In recent years, the MMRL has contributed to identifying various genetic components for atrial fibrillation and the mechanisms responsible for the development of this arrhythmia. MMRL investigators are actively engaged in research to develop novel pharmacologic approaches in the treatment of AF. These new treatments are designed to be highly selective and specific for distinct ion channels in the atria of the heart Drugs such as ranolazine, amiodarone, vernakalant, Wenxin Keli and the combination of ranolazine and dronedarone were shown as viable treatments and further study is being done to make the treatments more patient specific.