Attorney General Eric H. Holder briefly hospitalized for an elevated heart rate

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was treated at a Washington hospital Thursday for an elevated heart rate after he experienced light­headedness and shortness of breath during a morning staff meeting.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said that Holder, 63, arrived at MedStar Washington Hospital Center at 10:30 a.m. and received medication that quickly restored his heart rate to a normal level.

“After successfully completing a full range of tests, doctors were satisfied that the attorney general could be discharged,” Fallon said. Holder left the hospital at 1:15 p.m., walking out without assistance, and went home to rest.

Fallon said that Holder experienced similar symptoms several years ago but in a milder form that did not require medical attention.

Elevated heart rate could signal several different conditions, such as abnormal heart rhythm, or arrhythmia. Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of arrhythmia. Symptoms include irregular or rapid heartbeat, lightheaded­ness and shortness of breath.

An estimated 2.7 million Americans are living with atrial fibrillation, according to the American Heart Association, and as many as 12 million will have it by 2050.

Men are more likely than women to have the condition. In the United States, atrial fibrillation is more common among whites than African Americans or Hispanic Americans, according to federal health statistics.

Risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes and advanced age. Stroke and heart failure are the two most common complications.

Treatment includes medication to control heart rhythm and to thin the blood to prevent clot formation and reduce the risk of a stroke; lifestyle changes; and surgery.

A D.C. official with direct knowledge of Thursday’s incident said that city dispatchers received a 911 call at 9:43 a.m. reporting a man with chest pains and abnormal breathing on the fifth floor of a federal building at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, the Justice Department’s location.

Fallon said Holder had initially complained of faintness and shortness of breath during his regular morning meeting with senior staff.

A D.C. fire official said an ambulance was dispatched at 9:44 a.m. with a Code “Charlie” for chest pain. Anything with that code requires a paramedic.

The ambulance arrived at the Justice Department four minutes later, as did Paramedic Engine Company 13. Two separate EMS supervisors also responded.

Holder was then transported by ambulance to the hospital, where he was “alert and conversing with his doctors,” Fallon said.

Holder remained in good spirits throughout the day, he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that “the president was notified and, of course, wishes him a speedy recovery.”

Amy Brittain and Peter Hermann contributed to this report.

Sari Horwitz covers the Justice Department, after 30 years at the paper where she has been an investigative reporter and covered federal law enforcement, crime, education and social services.
Lena H. Sun is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on health.
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