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Explaining atrial fibrillation



In late 2013, the World Health Organization released results from a data analysis that examined atrial fibrillation and its prevalence across the globe. The results were troubling, indicating that 33.5 million people worldwide have the condition.

If those figures don’t raise an eyebrow, that’s likely because few people are familiar with atrial fibrillation, in spite of its prevalence. A broader understanding of atrial fibrillation, often referred to as AF, may help people reduce their likelihood of developing the condition.

What is atrial fibrillation?

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute notes that atrial fibrillation is the most common type of arrhythmia, which is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. AF occurs when rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the heart’s two upper chambers, known as the atria, to contract very quickly and irregularly.

What happens when a person has atrial fibrillation?

The heart is not functioning properly when a person has atrial fibrillation. That’s because blood pools in the atria when a person has AF, and because of that pooling, the blood is not pumped completely into the heart’s two lower chambers, which are known as the ventricles. As a result, the heart’s upper and lower chambers do not work in conjunction as they do when the heart is fully healthy.

Are there symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

Some people with AF do not feel symptoms and only learn of their condition after physical examinations. That highlights the importance of scheduling annual physicals for all people, but especially for people with a personal or family history of heart trouble.

According to the American Heart Association, the most common symptom of AF is a quivering or fluttering heartbeat, which is caused by abnormal firing of electrical impulses. Anyone who feels such a symptom or suspects their heartbeat is abnormal should consult a physician


In addition to a quivering or fluttering heartbeat, the AHA notes that people with AF may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

· General fatigue

· Dizziness

· Shortness of breath and anxiety

· Weakness

· Faintness or confusion

· Fatigue when exercising

· Sweating

· Chest pain or pressure

The AHA warns that people experiencing chest pain or pressure are having a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Whether or not symptoms of AF are detected, the condition can still increase a person’s risk for serious medical problems, including stroke.

Who is at risk for atrial fibrillation?

No one is immune to atrial fibrillation, though risk of developing the condition rises as a person ages. Men are more likely than women to develop AF, which the NHLBI notes is more common among whites than African Americans or Hispanic Americans.

People suffering from hyperthyroidism, a condition characterized by excessive amounts of the thyroid hormone, are at greater risk for AF than those without the condition. In addition, people who are obese and those who have been diagnosed with diabetes or lung disease are at greater risk for AF than those without such


The NHLBI also notes that AF is more common in people who have:

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Rheumatic heart disease
  • Structural heart defects
  • Pericarditis
  • Congenital heart defects

Can atrial fibrillation be prevented?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent AF, though certain lifestyle choices can reduce a person’s risk for the condition. A heart-healthy diet that’s low in cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat and also includes daily servings of various whole grains, fruits and vegetables can lower a person’s risk for AF. Daily physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking also can lower a person’s risk.

Atrial fibrillation is a rising threat across the globe. More information about AF can be found at

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Enhance your home’s style with stone



(Family Features) One essential step in planning a home renovation is choosing the right materials. Natural and textured walls continue to be trendy choices, and many building pros and homeowners are gravitating toward stone siding to add comfort, character and beauty.

Panelized stone siding offers the look and feel of natural stone and manufactured stone veneer, but in a panelized format that can be installed with screws. With a wide range of exterior and interior applications, panelized stone siding can complement almost any home style. On the exterior, in particular, stone siding can boost curb appeal and provide a multi-textured facade with a solid return on investment.

Although stone veneer, or manufactured stone, is commonly used on home exteriors, indoor applications are gaining popularity as homeowners are increasingly interested in bringing natural elements inside.

Given its design flexibility, ease of installation and affordability, the experts at Westlake Royal Building Products recommend manufactured stone siding as an ideal option for interior and exterior applications like these:

If you love the look of natural stone but want a more affordable option, panelized stone siding offers an authentic look and simple application with a cutting and installation process similar to traditional siding panels. Some homeowners choose to mix stone with other exterior materials to create a one-of-a-kind appearance. For example, adding manufactured stone siding alongside existing brick or vinyl siding can infuse visual texture, dimension and impact. Complementing colors can provide a more balanced, traditional look while contrasting colors present as modern and bold.

Wrapping columns with panelized stone can make your home’s entrance a focal point, adding curb appeal and creating a welcoming effect.

Accent Walls
Panelized stone siding can also be used to elongate the appearance of a wall while bringing texture and contrast into the home. Warmer tones can make the space more inviting and cozier while cooler hues can bring a modern, industrial feel.

Manufactured stone siding makes it easy to give a fireplace a facelift or make it a focal point, changing the look and feel of a room. Available in a variety of colors, textures and shapes, it can elevate your living room’s style and create a more inviting area.

An affordable option like Versetta Stone panelized stone siding from Westlake Royal Building Products provides the beauty of hand-laid stone with virtually undetectable joints and seams for world-class design featuring timeless colors and textures, natural shapes and hand-crafted details. It’s a practical choice for experienced DIYers since there’s no need for mortar. What’s more, the tongue-and-groove interlocking system can be installed in any weather.

Learn how panelized stone siding can bring your vision to life at

Westlake Royal Building Products

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Chores to tackle to get your home ready for spring



(Family Features) After months spent largely indoors while harsh elements battered your home’s exterior, many homeowners are throwing open the windows and embracing spring’s arrival.

Every home requires ongoing maintenance to ensure it’s living up to its aesthetic and functional best. This checklist can help you create a comfortable home setting for enjoying the warmer months.

Check gutters. During the colder months, debris can accumulate in the gutters, which can be problematic when spring rains arrive. Clogged gutters prevent water from flowing efficiently away from the roof and house. When they’re backed up, they can cause water damage in a short amount of time. Faulty guttering can also cause slow leaks that lead to damage you may not discover until major repair work is needed. Properly functioning gutters are clear of debris, flow freely and are securely attached to the home.

Inspect the roof. Your roof takes a real beating in all kinds of weather conditions. Making it a common practice to carefully inspect the roof with the change of seasons can help you identify potential problems while they’re still in early stages, before a big storm hits and major damage occurs. Some roof issues can be addressed with simple repairs you can do yourself while others may require a professional. A roofing expert can help you determine whether any trouble areas can be patched or if a more complete restoration is in order.

Replace the dryer vent. Upgrading your dryer vent is an opportunity to conserve energy and prevent flammable lint build-up in your dryers. One option for updating the exhaust system is a paintable version of InoVate’s Prime DryerWallVent. Engineered for both vent replacement and new construction, the vent includes features such as a gravity-assist damper, integrated magnets and a drip edge to provide extra protection from the elements as well as pests. A large, clean opening and lightweight angled damper promote exceptional airflow efficiency.

Service air conditioning units. Your heating and cooling system works hard to keep your indoor climate comfortable when extreme temperatures make the outdoors unbearable. That’s why it’s important to have your systems serviced by a professional, and spring is a smart time to do so before they’re hard at work throughout the warmer months. Service can correct problems and ensure everything is operating efficiently, which can lead to money savings as well.

Repair window screens. Throughout the winter, your home’s window screens can accumulate a layer of dirt and grime that isn’t just unsightly; it blows indoors when you open the windows to welcome a fresh breeze. What’s more, if your screens have rips and tears, pesky bugs and other critters can make their way into your home more easily. Cleaning and repairing your screens can make your home more secure and help protect your indoor air quality.

Find more information to help get your home ready for spring at

Photo courtesy of Unsplash


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Tips for fostering dogs



(Family Features) More animals are staying in shelters now than before the pandemic, according to a report from Shelter Animals Count, and just over half (53%) of dogs in shelters are adopted. However, the report also found that fostering dogs is a proven way to help pets find new homes.

For those looking to support rescue dogs in need, the PEDIGREE® brand and its FOSTERVERSE program offer tips for a positive fostering experience and show how you can help end pet homelessness. To learn more and get involved, visit

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Learn the Dog’s Background

Every dog has a unique personality and set of needs, which is why it’s important to learn as much as you can before fostering a dog. Try to gather detailed information from the rescue organization or animal shelter before bringing the dog home, including age, breed, health conditions, dietary needs, energy level and even likes and dislikes. Learning about your foster dog’s background ahead of time can help you prepare and ensure a smooth transition to your home.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Prepare Your Household

Spend time making your home as dog-friendly and safe as possible by keeping electronics, cleaning supplies, sharp objects and other potentially dangerous items out of the way. This may mean taking a look at items in your home from the dog’s eye level to see what might be within reach. If you will be introducing a foster dog to other pets in your household, try to provide ample space to allow for slow introductions. Also consider looking for ways to designate spaces and belongings (like beds) between your pets so they can have comfortable places to retreat and rest.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Train for Eventual Adoption

Once your foster dog has adjusted to the new environment, consider gradually implementing routines. These routines may include activities like obedience training, physical exercise, house training and crate training. Teaching your foster pup good habits in preparation for adoption can increase the likelihood of finding a forever home.

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Market Your Foster Dog

Spread the word in your community in person and on social media that you are fostering and helping find a forever home for your four-legged friend. A survey from revealed the simple act of sharing information on social media about adoptable pets at local shelters can save a pet’s life, with 8 out of 10 (84%) organizations reporting that sharing pet content online increases the likelihood of pets being adopted. Help get the word out and show your community members why they should consider adopting your foster pup.

Try Virtual Fostering

While many people might want to foster a pup, there are many factors that may not allow them to foster pets in real life. That’s why the PEDIGREE brand is bringing fostering opportunities to the Metaverse for anyone who owns a digital property in Decentraland, offering a new platform for dog adoption. Users may interact with dogs they meet in the FOSTERVERSE program and learn about their backgrounds and adoption status, as well as ways to support dogs in need across the country. Dog lovers can choose to adopt a dog they meet virtually through or donate to PEDIGREE Foundation to help similar adoptable pets in need across the country.


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