As a music icon, no one knows the value of being in rhythm more than the legendary Barry Manilow.
For more than 15 years, however, Manilow has continued his success while one critically important detail was out of rhythm—his heart. That's because he is one of the more than 2.5 million Americans living with atrial fibrillation or AFib.
AFib is a condition that causes your heart to race and beat out of rhythm. While some people with AFib may feel no symptoms, others may feel palpitations, shortness of breath, weakness and anxiety.
People often aren’t aware of many of the serious consequences of this disease, including permanent heart damage, heart attack, heart failure, stroke and death. In fact, many patients currently living with the disease may not know if their AFib management plan is addressing these important risks.
“The first time it happened to me, I was actually driving home. I could feel something strange happening; I wasn't jogging, I was singing, I wasn't jumping around at the Copacabana,” Manilow said.
With no risk factors and not knowing what was happening to him, he called his doctor to run some tests.
“I went to him, and he explained that this condition is called atrial fibrillation. He put me on a regimen of medicine and all, and for a while it calmed down. Then it started up again, and they had to go further for me,” Manilow said.
Dr. Marcus Wharton, director of cardiac electrophysiology at the Medical University of South Carolina, said Manilow isn’t alone with this problem.
“The majority of people who get it are over the age of 65, but it can hit younger people as well," Wharton said. "The number of people suffering from atrial fibrillation is expected double or triple over the next 10 years as the baby boomer generation ages.”
Manilow is now the patient spokesperson for Get Back in Rhythm, a national atrial fibrillation education campaign to encourage people to learn about the importance of managing the disease.
“I know these episodes are scary. It starts out very innocent, your heart skips a beat. And then it goes further and your heart starts going faster, beats faster and faster and faster, until you know there's something wrong," Manilow explained. "It's out of whack, it's out of rhythm."
Wharton said approximately 25 percent of people are have no symptoms at all and are not even aware that they suffer from atrial fibrillation.
"It can cause a change in exercise tolerance, fatigue, and so people think they are just getting old. It is important to see your cardiologist if you have any of these symptoms,” Wharton added.
Manilow said he is speaking out about his disease because of his fans.
“I worry about you guys who are not calling your doctors, who are going through this and who are afraid to go to the doctor or don't like doctors," he said. "You can't let this go, cause you're playing with fire, cause this could go to heart attacks and strokes. You've got to take care of this.”
Manilow reassured his ‘Fanilows’ that he is in great shape and feels well.
“I still got my rhythm… I still got it.”
To see if you are at risk for AFib, and to learn more about Barry Manilow’s story, log onto www.GetBackinRhythm.com