If you notice an unusual feeling in your chest, you might not be suffering from a heart attack. But doctors encourage you to still seek medical help because you could be suffering from another serious condition.
As the head football coach at Augustana College for around 20 years, Jim Heinitz knows a thing or two about physical activity but the feeling the former coach was having one day sitting in his office, was unlike anything he had felt before.
“My heart just took off. I could tell my pulse was much stronger and faster than anything I felt before," Heinitz said.
Heinitz went to his doctor, who diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation or AFib.
"I had never heard the word atrial fibrillation until I had it," Heinitz said.
AFib is a condition where the heart beats erratically, either too fast or too slow.
“The most common symptoms we see are tiredness and fatigue. Palpitation is one. People describe it like a fish flopping inside the chest or drums," North Central Heart Institute Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist Dr. Riyad Mohama said.
Some patients confuse those symptoms with a heart attack.
"Heart attacks present usually with chest pain," Mohama said.
Atrial fibrillation doesn't increase your risk of a heart attack, but it can lead to other serious health issues.
"A person with atrial fibrillation is almost five times at higher risk for having a stroke," Mohama said.
That's why if you have symptoms, you should see a doctor. And Mohama says there are treatments available.
"I have been on some medications. Those are very helpful. In June of this year I had ablation surgery," Heinitz said.
Heinitz says he hasn't had any heart issues since surgery. He's able to work long hours as the CEO of Furniture Outlets USA, while cheering on his favorite teams.
"I have three kids and nine grandchildren. I went to more baseball games this summer than any man maybe should, but it's fun," Heinitz said.
The older you get, the more you're at risk for AFib. Other risk factors include having high blood pressure or chronic lung disease, along with drinking a lot of alcohol.