Atrial Flutter Puts Heart In Overdrive

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have been diagnosed with atrial flutter. My cardiologist wants to perform a catheter ablation on me and says it’s a safe procedure. Do you agree? — B.L.

ANSWER: Atrial flutter is a very rapid heartbeat. The atria, the two upper heart chambers, beat 260 to 300 times a minute. The lower heart chambers, the right and left ventricles, the heart’s pumping chambers, beat at half that rate, still a fast heartbeat.

Atrial flutter differs from atrial fibrillation, a more common heart-rhythm disturbance, in the regularity of the heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation is both an irregular and fast heartbeat. Atrial flutter is a regular and fast beat.

Fatigue, lightheadedness and shortness of breath are some of atrial flutter’s symptoms.

The heart can’t be allowed to sustain such rapid beating. Ablation, the destruction of heart tissue responsible for the speedup, is an excellent way to put an end to flutter. The heart doctor with a specially equipped catheter advances this thin, pliable tube from a surface blood vessel into the heart. When the doctor has the catheter at the right position, he or she turns on radio waves that create scars in the renegade part of the atrium. The abnormal rhythm stops. The success rate is 90 percent. I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to have it done.

The booklet on heartbeat irregularities explains the more common kinds of heartbeat disturbances. To obtain a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 107W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Years ago, on one of the morning news shows, I heard people talking about taking a vitamin or mineral to keep mosquitoes from biting. Do you know what that is? Mosquitoes prefer my blood. I do not want to use some type of poison, like a repellent. — P.J.

ANSWER: Vitamin B-1, thiamine, has been touted as a way to discourage mosquitoes from biting. No proof of this exists, and I have serious doubts about this advice.

Exhaled carbon dioxide attracts mosquitoes, as do other body chemicals and body heat. You don’t have to fear repellents. They aren’t poison. They don’t kill mosquitoes. They drive them away — repel them. Ones with DEET work well. Or if you want a natural product, try Repel. It contains oil of lemon eucalyptus.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My concern is “tan without the sun” lotions. The “bronzers” work over a period of hours. If they were simple dyes, the color change would be immediate. It isn’t. It takes hours before an effect is noticeable.

Do they bring a natural skin pigment to the surface, and do they protect from the sun? — A.R.

ANSWER: Most of these products contain dihydroacetone, which reacts with cells in the topmost layer of skin and imparts the tan hue to it. It fades as these cells are shed. The color change does not protect against sunlight.

These bronzers are not skin dyes.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

© 2013 North America Synd., Inc.

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