Olympic champion swimmer Mark Spitz has been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), which according to the American Heart Association is “is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.” Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that at least 2.7 million Americans are living with the condition.
The 69-year old is an 11-time Olympic medalist, including 9 golds. In 1972, he won a record 7 gold medals, which stood as the best at a single Olympics until 2008 when Michael Phelps eclipsed it with 8 golds.
Spitz’s announcement comes on the 47th anniversary of the date he won that 7th gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
“I feel lucky that I was able to catch this before it put me at serious risk for other heart complications,” Spitz said. “I look forward to spreading awareness about AFib as I learn more about this condition and live with my own diagnosis.
“After competing at that level, I never imagined that I would be diagnosed with a heart condition like this one.”
Some personal news… I was recently diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) and have been working with doctors over the last year to manage my condition.
— Mark Spitz (@markspitzusa) September 4, 2019
According to the American Heart Association, AFib rarely leads to death, but that the episodes can contribute to complications like stroke and heart failure that can lead to death; the condition leads to a 5-fold risk for stroke and doubles the risk of heart-related deaths. With proper treatment, though, most people diagnosed with the condition can live “long, healthy, and active lives,” the AHA reports.