Gene Simmons' Heart Scare

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Playing Gene Simmons' Heart Scare

Music icon Gene Simmons of the rock and roll band KISS recently sat down with Pfizer's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, to discuss his experience with atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib.

AFib is the most common form of irregular heartbeat, and it affects more than 3 million Americans. Simmons first began feeling symptoms of AFib ten years ago when he was on stage. The pyrotechnics would cause the temperature to rise, causing Simmons to become dizzy, perspire, and experience shortness of breath. Shortly after, he saw a doctor and was diagnosed with AFib. Since then, he hasn't had many more episodes, which he attributes to getting plenty of rest and drinking a lot of liquids. His advice to people with AFib is to lead a healthy lifestyle.

AFib can cause the heart to quiver, race, or seemingly skip a beat. This happens because the top chambers of the heart, the atria, don't conduct a normal electrical signal and can struggle to properly pump blood through the heart. So, blood that should move out of these chambers can pool and form clots. This can be dangerous because clots can travel to the brain and cause strokes, or block blood flow and lead to heart failure.

AFib can exist without any symptoms, so people can walk around with it and not know it. This is why it's important to see a doctor for regular checkups, because sometimes they're the only ones who can diagnose it. They will listen to your heart, feel your pulse, and may do an electrocardiogram, also known as an EKG. An EKG may sound dramatic, but it's a simple and painless test that involves putting sensors on different parts of your body so doctors can see the rate of your heartbeat, as well as the timing and strength of the electrical signals as they travel through the heart chambers.

AFib generally affects older people and those with heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, kidney disease, or diabetes. Risk factors include high alcohol or caffeine consumption, family history, and obesity.

AFib symptoms include:

  • Heart racing or skipping a beat
  • Chest tightness 
  • Dizziness or lightheaded
  • Shortness of breath 

If you experience any of these symptoms, please consult your doctor. Treatment can often help, which is important because AFib contributes to 130,000 deaths a year. If you or someone you know is diagnosed with AFib, work with your healthcare professional to discuss which treatments are available.

Things you can do to prevent AFib:

  • Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • Adopt a heart-healthy diet
  • Get plenty of exercise

For more information on AFib and other important issues, visit

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