Howie Mandel Raises Awareness For AFib
Howie Mandel Raises Awareness About Atrial Fibrillation
When actor and comedian Howie Mandel found out he had afib, he decided to educate people about the common heart condition that can lead to stroke.
By Jennifer J. Brown, PhD
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Four years ago, actor, comedian and game show host Howie Mandel learned he had a heart condition called atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat associated with an increased risk of stroke. Now he has teamed up Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer to benefit the National Stroke Association and raise awareness about atrial fibrillation, or afib, through an interactive online quiz.
When we called Mandel, the host of Deal or No Deal, in New York City to talk with him about his atrial fibrillation awareness work, he explained why he decided to become an advocate for afib.
"Because I personally am one of 5.8 million Americans who have afib not caused by a heart valve problem. And being one of those 5.8 million people, I had no idea I had it!" he said. "I found out accidentally at a ... regular check-up. The doctor heard my heartbeat and found out I had an irregular heartbeat. I was not symptomatic or aware of my symptoms. I had no idea that this could make me five times more likely to have a stroke than somebody who doesn’t have this."
In fact, a person with atrial fibrillation has a fivefold increased risk of stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, afib can be asymptomatic — as it was with Mandel — or may include symptoms like:
- Heart palpitations
- Pounding, fluttering or racing sensation in the chest
- Dizziness or feeling light-headed
Said Mandel, "When I first knew I had it, I didn’t think there was any big deal. And then when I learned the facts, that this could possibly cause a stroke, I thought, I better educate myself and go for help."
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In atrial fibrillation, contractions of the heart are irregular and blood can pool in the heart, where it may clot. A stroke can result from a blood clot traveling to the brain and restricting the necessary flow of blood.
Now, Mandel has turned to education. "I’m taking my time to educate myself with partners at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer. They’ve come up with this great website, Fibs or Facts, where you take a quiz — 10 questions. Going there you learn the facts about what this is."
Each question in the Fibs or Facts quiz relates to the heart and atrial fibrillation, with a brief correct answer and explanation. "Not only that," Mandel added, "they’ve partnered [with the National Stroke Association] and for everybody who completes a quiz they will donate one dollar, up to ,000, to the association."
(The Fibs or Facts educational campaign is supported by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer in partnership with the National Stroke Association.)
Mandel stressed that many people are unaware of the risks of afib. "I feel by just giving my time, getting education that I didn’t have — and education for people who aren’t educated — we’ll be helping some people who don’t even know there’s an issue."
Now he focuses on staying healthy to reduce his risk of stroke. "I don’t know what the triggers are but I’m staying healthy and I’m always going to my doctor, and I do whatever it takes to stay healthy. Atrial fibrillation can be taken care of," he said. "The point is that it is manageable. Everybody is different and will have different ways of managing whatever they need, and their doctor will have ways of managing theirs. But I think the first key is just to know it exists, know whether you have it, and know what the risks are and take care of yourself!"
"The most important thing as far as my personal experience is: I didn’t know I had it, and I didn’t know what the risk factors are," Mandel added. "The fact is that education is the best weapon against any problem that one may have. And heart issues are the leading cause of problems and this is a very common heart issue — afib."
"Take the quiz, you will find things out. It makes sense!" he stressed.
Video: Howie Mandel speaks out on AFib
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