By Drs. Oz and Roizen

Romantic love, winning the lottery ... many good things can make your heart skip a beat. But the erratic palpitations of a seriously off-beat ticker are worth avoiding as they spell big trouble for your brain.

Hereís how it happens. Irregular heartbeats, or atrial fibrillation (AF, Afib), make muscles in your heartís upper chambers (atria) quiver and flutter instead of steadily pump blood to the lower chambers. That causes blood to pool in the left atrium, so it canít flow smoothly into blood vessels. And that can encourage blood clots. The next strong beat can sweep clots to your brain, where they block blood flow, destroying brain tissue and causing a stroke.

One in 25 men and one in 17 women with Afib have a stroke; 70 percent of Afib-fueled brain attacks are fatal. So do all you can to keep your heart beating regularly. Of strokes from Afib, 75 percent are preventable. We know that the same steps that guard against heart disease protect your heartís wiring. Toss in a nifty DIY check, a little common sense, and youíll see big rewards:

Early warning test. Find your pulse at your neck or wrist, then try to tap your foot to the beat for a full minute. If there isnít a regular beat, see your doc for an evaluation. Also, watch out for Afibís sneaky signs: chest pain; feeling dizzy or out of breath; and being chronically weak or tired. Then talk with your doctor.

Know your risk. Having blood relatives with Afib boosts your risk. So does high blood pressure, diabetes, a heart murmur and other conditions.

To pamper your heart:

1. Feed (and exercise) a healthy heart. Eat colorful produce, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats and fat-free dairy; go light on salt; avoid added sugar. Walk a half-hour daily.

2. Say no to that second drink.

3. At risk? Got Afib? Go easy on caffeine and more. An extra-large latte habit (if youíre at risk) could bring on palpitations. Same goes for stimulants, like energy drinks, diet pills, nicotine and OTC medicine that contains pseudoephedrine.

4. Follow your doctorís orders. The medicines and strategies may include clot-stopping drugs, yoga or even surgery.

For more: www.RealAge.com.