Editor’s note: Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a type of irregular heart beat. It can sometimes be felt as a fluttering or “thumping” in the chest. Since the heart isn’t pumping properly, blood may pool in the upper chambers and form a clot. This clot can break free, travel to the brain, and cause a stroke.
In honor of AFib Awareness Month, 39-Time Grand Slam Tennis Champion Billie Jean King and 14-Time Basketball All-Star Jerry West are working with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company, to help raise awareness about this health condition. Below, they share their stories. Plus, read on for a simple tool to help you evaluate your risk.
When I hit the court as a Los Angeles Laker, I loved the feeling of making a game-winning play and knowing I was on top of my game. But when I had to start breathing into a paper bag during games to keep from hyperventilating and my heart felt out-of-rhythm, I knew something was wrong. It wasn’t until after I stopped playing professional basketball that I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat and one of the most common serious heart rhythm disorders in people over the age of 65. What I didn’t know at that time was that I was also at an increased risk of stroke.
Billie Jean’s Story
I remember being in a taxi on my home from a tennis match, and feeling very dizzy. I got out of the car and my heart was racing. I thought I was going to faint. I called up my athlete’s perseverance and tried to push through, but I knew something was wrong and that I needed to see my doctor right away. That afternoon I did, and he told me that I had AFib. When I was diagnosed with AFib, I had no idea that I also had a one-in-three risk of stroke. I was even more surprised to learn that each year, nearly 55,000 more women than men suffer from stroke. That fact alone made me want to start getting the word out so others would be motivated to get help managing their health risks.
The Facts about AFib and Stroke Risk
More than half of people living with AFib don’t believe that they are at an increased risk of stroke. It’s important for those with this condition to understand that risk and how it could affect their health.
Janssen is offering a simple tool to calculate personal stroke risk at www.MyAFibRisk.com. It’s eight easy questions that can help those with AFib understand their risk and talk with their doctor about stroke risk management and treatment options.
And while you’re helping yourself, you can also help others. For every stroke risk calculated, Janssen will make a contribution to Mended Hearts, a nonprofit peer-to-peer support network that inspires hope and helps to improve the quality of life for heart patients, their families and caregivers.
If you have AFib, treatment options are available that can help reduce your risk for stroke. Go to www.MyAFibRisk.com to calculate your personalized stroke risk and learn more about our stories.
Jerry West played professional basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1960 to 1974, and was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1997. He currently is an executive board member of the Golden State Warriors, who recently won the 2015 NBA Championship.
Billie Jean Kingean King is the winner of 39 Grand Slam tennis titles, including a record 20 championships at Wimbledon. She founded the Women’s Tennis Association, Women’s Sports Foundation and co-founded World Team Tennis. Last year she founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative.