Not many things can put the scare into you quite like atrial fibrillation--I've heard people say it feels like the heart is trying to break right out of the chest.
Some 3 million Americans live with this condition, which comes with a higher risk of stroke and the constant anxiety of wondering when the next attack may strike.
But now, a new study finds that more than half of all cases could have been avoided.
Researchers looked at data on some 14,600 patients with an average age of 54 who took part in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.
During an average follow-up of 17 years, there were 1,520 cases of A-fib--but the researchers say 57 percent of them were related to one or more of the known risk factors for the condition, including high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and excess weight.
That means well over half of all A-fib cases may be completely avoidable.
The one caveat here is that not everyone faces the same odds in the first place-- and your own risk could vary dramatically based on a couple of things well beyond your control: gender and race.
The researchers say black women with at least one A-fib risk factor had a whopping 94 percent risk of developing the condition. For black men, that risk was 91 percent, according to the study published on the Web site of the journal Circulation.
White women with at least one risk factor had a 50 percent risk, while for white men it was 38 percent--a number that only sounds small because it's smaller than all the others.
Of course, some people might get the condition no matter what they do--and if you're facing A-fib, there's no reason to panic.
Try yoga instead--because another new study finds it can slash the number of episodes and reduce some of the most common symptoms associated with the condition.
Researchers say three yoga classes a week--along with regular practice at home--can cut the number of irregular heartbeat episodes in half, and significantly reduce the depression and anxiety that often accompanies it.
Patients in the small study who practiced yoga also enjoyed improvements in physical function, vitality, social function and overall physical and mental health.
Since other studies have found that yoga can help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, reduce asthma severity and even fight fibromyalgia, you might want to pick out your mantra today--whether you suffer from A-fib or not.