Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Talking it up: speech and atrial fibrillation

Heart Beat

Talking it up: speech and atrial fibrillation

Many things can set off atrial fibrillation (AF), the rapid and erratic beating of the heart's upper chambers. Triggers range from heavy alcohol consumption and stress to dehydration and downing an ice-cold drink. Cardiologists at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Ky., reported a case of speech-induced AF in a 68-year-old librarian. She had noticed becoming unusually tired during family gatherings, meetings at work, or when talking on the phone.

A heart monitor showed frequent bursts of AF when she was talking, but not when she was quiet. By having the woman repeat the word "Mississippi" over and over again, doctors were able to locate the area in her heart responsible for generating the erratic signals. After destroying this tiny patch of cells with a procedure called catheter ablation, the woman's AF stopped and hadn't returned, the doctors reported at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting.

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