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Patient Information Sheets

Browse the Heart Rhythm Society's selection of education materials that you can download and print for yourself. 

Looking for trusted information for yourself or a loved one? Our educational information sheets, developed by experts in the field, provide quick, simple, and easy-to-understand definitions, explanations, and answers   questions.

Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib, is the common sustained heart rhythm disorder. It affects 2.7 million in the United States. 

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Our understanding of the exact relationship between atrial fibrillation (AFib) and sleep apnea is evolving. It is estimated that half of the patients with AFib also have sleep apnea. And patients with sleep apnea have four times the risk of developing AFib.

Available for download:
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Additional resources:

www.myapnea.org (MyApnea)
MyApnea is a community of patients, doctors, and researchers trying to improve the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea.

 

People with AFib have a stroke risk five times higher than those who do not have AFib. AFib causes approximately 120,000 strokes each year. 

Because of the adverse effects a stroke can have on quality and duration of life, stroke prevention is a primary treatment goal in AFib. There are a variety of treatments to prevent stroke, but a medication called an anticoagulant is the most common "first-line" treatment.

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Based on your personal risk, your health care provider recommend taking a blood-thinning medication to reduce the risk of having a stroke from AFib. These blood-thinning medications are called anticoagulants.

Anticoagulants work the best when taken exactly as perscribed. If you don't take the right amount of anticoagulant medication and your blood is not thin enough, you could have a stroke. If your blood is too thin, you could have dangerous bleeding. To avoid these complications, it is very important to be "adherent" to your treatment plan.

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Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) can improve congestive heart failure (CHF) symptoms by improving the timing of the heart's contractions, resulting in a more powerful heartbeat, pumping more blood to the body.

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In catheter ablation, a form of energy renders a small section of problem causing tissue inactive. This puts an end to arrhythmias that originated at the problematic site.

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An electrophysiology, or EP, study provides information that is key to diagnosing and treating arrhythmias. Although it is more invasive than an electrocardiogram (ECG) or echocardiogram, and involves provoking arrhythmias, the test produces data that makes it possible to:

  • Diagnose the source of arrhythmia symptoms
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of certain medications in controlling the heart rhythm disorder
  • Predict the risk of a future cardiac event
  • Assess the need for an implantable device (a pacemaker or ICD) or treatment procedure

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Implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) and pacemakers improve quality of life and may prevent premature death for people with certain irregular heart rhythms.

There are times, such as when life is nearing its end, when patients may no longer desire these heart therapies. Patients and families may wish to have their cardiac devices turned off.

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Millions of people experience irregular or abnormal heartbeats, called arrhythmias, at some point in their lives. Most of the time, they are harmless and happen in healthy people free of heart disease. However, some abnormal heart rhythms can be serious or even deadly. Having other types of heart disease can also increase the risk of arrhythmias.

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Because the heart's electrical system is complicated, diagnosing abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) can be difficult and requires heart rhythm experts who use special testing equipment. To find the problem, a doctor will take a medical history, ask about symptoms, give a thorough physical exam, and order specific tests. 

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Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), like pacemakers, are made up of a generator (its brains and power source) and wires that usually go through a vein into the heart. The main function of an ICD is to detect dangerously fast heart beats, and deliver a potentially life-saving shock to correct that rhythm.

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Artificial pacemakers are devices that are implanted into the body just below the collarbone, to take over the job of the heart's own electrical system and prevent slow heart rates. 

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An abnormally fast heart rhythm, or tachycardia, can prove dangerous because the racing interferes with the heart's ability to pump properly. As a result, a victim may suffer a range of symptoms, from lightheadedness to sudden cardiac death.

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Remote monitoring enables healthcare providers to check your heart rhythm and cardiac device between office visits. 

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Even people wo look healthy and free of heart disease can have arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). Prevent heart disease by lowering risk factors that can lead to heart disease or heart rhythm problems, and monitor and treat any existing heart problems.

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Some abnormal heart rhythms can happen without the person knowing it, while some may cause a feeling of the heart "racing", lightheadedness, or dizziness. 

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Brachycardia is a slow heartbeat, less than 60 beats per minute, which can be normal. Each day, a normal heart beats about 100,000 times, at a rate anywhere from 60 to 100 times a minute. Changes in heart caused by activity, diet, medicines, and age are normal and common.

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Thousands of substances may affect the heart's electrical system and change its ability to pump blood through the body. Many illegal, prescription, over-the-counter drugs, as well as alcohol, tobacco, certain foods, and other substances, can affect the electrical signals that trigger the heartbeat.

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Sudden cardiac death (SCD), also called sudden cardiac arrest, is when the heart abruptly and without warning stops pumping. When SCD occurs, no blood can be pumped to the rest of the body. It is responsible for half of all heart disease deaths.

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The heart is a fist-sized muscle that pumps blood through the body 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without rest. The normal heart is made up of four parts: two atria on the top of the heart (right atrium and left atrium), and two ventricles (right ventricle and left ventricle) which are the muscular chambers on the bottom of the heart that provide the major power to pump blood.

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The underlying cause of any heart rhythm disorder provides the basis for selecting the best treatment plan. In general, the best treatment is the least invasive option that effectively controls the heart rhythm disorder.

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In the past, an external shock could sent to the heart only by a device, such as AED, that was brought to the patient. Today, there is also an optional of a Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator (WCD), which can be used by people felt to be at a higher than normal risk of ventricular fibrillation (VF), but may not have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) for various reasons.

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Further information regarding these topics can be found on the home page of UpBeat.org.