In September 2019, Mark Spitz, an athlete who was once in the sort of shape it took to be among the greatest of all time, posted to his Twitter account about spreading awareness for atrial fibrillation because it was a condition with which he’d recently been diagnosed.
Now, atrial fibrillation isn’t one of the more deadly heart arrhythmias if it’s caught early and properly treated, but it’s a serious danger if it isn’t. According to the Mayo Clinic, atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that originates in the upper part of the heart, causing the atria to beat rapidly and chaotically. This causes a couple of other things to happen. Since your atria are out of coordination with your ventricles, the lower portion of your heart doesn’t fill like it’s supposed to.
Luckily, this is usually easily treated. The major risk factor that comes from A. fib is that the blood tends to sit in the atria while they’re doing their little dance of chaos. When blood sits, it has a chance to form clots. These clots can move throughout the body, causing ischemia, heart attacks, pulmonary embolisms, or strokes. So, getting the arrhythmia treated as quickly as possible is the right thing to do.
Even though the former Olympian has developed this fairly common condition, he seems to be doing pretty darn well for 71 years old, and we’d be surprised if he kicked it anytime soon.