DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I had a heart attack five years ago. My weight and blood pressure are good and my arteries are OK. I take Inderal, Procardia and aspirin. I have developed fibrillation in the upper chamber of late, so my doctor added Lanoxin. The irregular beats scare me. My doctor of 19 years doesn't consider the situation too serious, although my son died of fibrillation in the lower chamber when in his 40s. Any comments? - D.R.
ANSWER: Your son died of ventricular fibrillation, which differs greatly from atrial fibrillation. The upper heart chambers are the atria, the lower ones the ventricles. The ventricles supply almost all the pumping force, and that force is lost if fibrillation develops there. With atrial fibrillation, however, heart pumping is affected only slightly. Nevertheless, this upper chamber fibrillation is something you'd rather not have, and there are ways to end it, either with medicines or with electric shock (cardioversion).In fact, there are serious reasons for wanting to end the fibrillation. For if the irregular beating persists, you become concerned about possible formation and loosening of clots in the upper chamber. A tiny traveling clot can block small arteries leading to the brain. This is why your doctor gave you the aspirin, which discourages clot formation. The Lanoxin slows your fast heart (the fibrillation).
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My wife hurt her ankle in aerobic dance class. She had to drop out. I think the dangers for some women should be made clear. A word from you might help. - E.Y.
ANSWER: Most aerobic dance injuries occur in the lower leg from overuse. The second important contributor is poor shoes, especially when there has been a previous foot injury. Inappropriate dance surfaces also contribute. Beware unpadded concrete surfaces. Soft cushioned shoes are a must.
Most aerobic dance participants withstand all the rigors unharmed. In fact, instructors are the usual victims (overuse).
FOR S.A.: One study indicates that on average, when a woman discontinues birth-control pill use she can expect on the order of six menstrual cycles of relative infertility. This hiatus can last up to a year, however. Women vary in the amount of time needed to counter the pill's hormonal effect of preventing ovulation.
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