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Barry Manilow Discusses His Battle With Heart Rhythm Disorder

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Writing the songs that make the whole world sing, Barry Manilow has been entertaining audiences for more than 40 years and despite being in the public eye for so long, he's managed to keep his private life just that.

Now, the Grammy Award-winning musician is opening up about a very personal problem -- atrial fibrillation (AFib). It's a condition that affects nearly 2.5 million Americans, a condition Manilow has been suffering from for nearly 15 years.

"I was driving home and it's just a very innocent feeling… it was just like your heart skips a beat. Well, I didn't feel like it was such a big deal… you know, it skips a beat. And then it skipped another one and it skipped another one, and it kept getting wilder and wilder. You know, I was like 'Wow.' It felt like there was a flounder in my chest, flopping around," Manilow said.

But like most of us, Manilow shrugged off the symptoms and then... it happened again later that night, prompting a call to his doctor, who knew exactly what was going on.

"It was this condition called atrial fibrillation which is when your heart goes out of rhythm. And it's a dangerous condition if you don't take care of it," he said.

If not treated, it can lead to heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and in the most extreme cases, death.

During an AFib attack, the heart's two upper chambers beat out of sync causing irregular heartbeat. This results in palpitations, shortness of breath, sometimes even weakness.

An attack can happen anywhere, anytime but there is good news... the condition is easily treatable with medicine.

"I was just about to do a concert on July 4th and I felt it kick in in the morning and I had to go to the hospital. By the time they were done with helping me out, I went back to sound check and I did the show. But you've got to be on top of it," Manilow said.

And Manilow isn't letting AFib slow him down. With the weekly show in Vegas set to end in December and tours around the world, he still finds time to give back with the Manilow Music Project.

"I'm just one skinny singer. I do what I can do," he said, adding that "we've done this a lot, we've done about five cities and we've given away about a half a million dollars of brand new musical instruments to each city… 15 schools."

Manilow is bringing music back to Joplin, Missouri – the town rebuilding after last May's deadly tornadoes, many who lost everything, including the schools that were leveled. His latest donation?

"The cavalry is coming to bring music back to childhood," he said. "Three truckloads of $300,000 worth of brand new instruments to the schools," he said.

And Barry Manilow remains timeless, with lyrics that have touched millions, words that hold true to the man he is today.

For more information about AFib, visit Get Back in Rhythm online. To learn more about the Manilow Music Project, click here.

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