When Should You Be Concerned About an Irregular Heart Beat?

Heart Health Steward Health Care

A Q&A with Nashoba Valley Medical Center
Cardiologist Peter Ofman, MD


Peter Ofman, MD
Peter Ofman, MD.

Dr. Ofman, who recently joined the medical staff at Nashoba Valley Medical Center to provide general cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology services to patients, answers commonly asked questions about atrial fibrillation (AFib).

What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal rhythm of the upper chambers of the heart causing electrical impulses traveling to the bottom part of the heart to create an irregular and/or fast heart rhythm.

What are the symptoms of AFib?
Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Dizziness at times
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Fluid accumulation in the lungs

How many people in the United States have AFib?
AFib affects approximately 2.7 million Americans.

Is AFib a fatal condition?
AFib is generally not life-threatening, but it carries with it a higher risk of stroke, and many patients need to take anticoagulants, medications that prevent the blood from clotting, as part of their treatment.

Who is at higher risk for AFib?
Typically, people who have one or more of the following conditions are at higher risk for AFib:

  • Advanced age
  • High blood pressure
  • Underlying heart disease
  • Drinking alcohol; binge drinking (having five drinks in two hours for men, or four drinks for women)
  • Family history
  • Sleep apnea
  • Chronic conditions such as thyroid problems (specifically hyperthyroidism), diabetes, asthma and other chronic medical problems

How is AFib treated?
The goal of treating atrial fibrillation is to prevent the formation of blood clots, control the number of times per minute the ventricles contract (rate control), restore a normal heart rhythm (rhythm control), and treat any underlying condition that may be contributing to AFib, such as hypertension, hyperthyroidism, sleep apnea, and obesity. Some patients can control their atrial fibrillation through medication therapy and nonsurgical procedures. Others may need to undergo a surgical procedure like a cardioversion or ablation to manage their symptoms.

What services are provided at Nashoba Valley Medical Center?
Due to my extensive training in the field of cardiology and electrophysiology, I provide general cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology services to patients. These services include screenings, pacemaker implantation and other procedures, maintenance, and follow-up care.

To make an appointment with Dr. Ofman or for more information about cardiology services offered at Nashoba Valley Medical Center, call 978-784-9345 or visit www.nashobamed.org/cardiac-vascular.