Monday, February 22, 2016


Celebrating our amazing hearts

The human heart is truly an amazing organ. It beats about 100,000 times a day, sending 2,000 gallons of blood surging through the body. That translates to 2.5 billion heart beats in an average lifetime. It starts to beat about 4 weeks after conception, and of course, keeps on beating until we die.

In simple terms, the heart is a pump made up of muscle tissue. The heart's pumping action is regulated by an electrical conduction system that coordinates the contraction of the various chambers of the heart. But the rhythm of this amazing organ can sometimes go awry.

For example, atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia. It occurs when there are too many electrical signals that normally control the heartbeat, causing the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) to beat extremely rapidly (more than 400 beats per minute) and quiver (fibrillate). This is felt as an always irregular, sometimes rapid heartbeat.

Dr. John Foley, a cardiologist with Hartford Healthcare Medical Group, treats people with cardiovascular diseases, usually with medication.

When heart rhythm disturbances don’t respond to medication and the usual treatments, Dr. Foley will refer that patient to an electrophysiology cardiologist, a specialist in the treatment of electrical cardiac conduction problems. I had never even heard of these specialists until my daughter encountered some very unusual heart rhythm disturbances and was referred to one.

Dr. Foley and Dr. Steven Zweibel, an electrophysiology cardiologist with Hartford Health Care, will be co-presenting an interesting community education program about heart disease and atrial fibrillation on Feb. 24 at Backus Hospital. Call (855) HHC-HERE for information and to register.

February is National Heart Month. We probably don’t think about our hearts very often, so let’s make a special effort this month to appreciate this amazing, hard-working, vital part of our body.

Alice Facente is a community health education nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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