A joint campaign from Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) and Pfizer aiming to raise awareness of atrial fibrillation (AFib) and its symptoms has enlisted a big man to help: NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

As part of the recently-announced No Time to Wait effort, the basketball legend reminds patients to be proactive with their health when dealing with AFib. As the most common type of irregular heartbeat, AFib affects approximately 9.5 million Americans, a number that is expected to rise to 12 million by 2030. 

The most notable symptoms of AFib are a high heart rate or chest pain in addition to an irregular heartbeat. Additionally, patients with AFib have a five-times higher risk of a stroke compared to patients without AFib.

For Abdul-Jabbar, the mission is a personal one that he details in a video on the campaign’s website. He was diagnosed with AFib in 2015 after the condition resulted in him being admitted to the hospital due to light-headedness and shortness of breath. 

Abdul-Jabbar encourages people to learn the symptoms of AFib and contact a doctor if they are experiencing them rather than just ignoring them.  

“When I first started to experience symptoms like shortness of breath and light-headedness, I dismissed them until they reached a point where I could no longer ignore them and I ended up in the hospital where I was diagnosed with AFib,” Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement. “I’ve joined the No Time to Wait campaign with Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer because I want my experience to help others understand the symptoms of AFib. Health is nothing to play around with. I hope my story can help motivate others to speak with a healthcare professional if they are experiencing symptoms.”

The No Time to Wait website includes suggested questions for patients to ask their doctor if they feel like they are experiencing AFib as well as new steps that include scheduling an appointment, completing a symptom checklist and speaking with loved ones about the condition.

“By educating on the common symptoms of AFib, we believe we can help people better understand the disease and encourage important and timely conversations with a healthcare professional,” Tom Garner, head of U.S. cardiovascular and established brands at BMS, said in a statement.

Abdul-Jabbar is also no stranger to providing his credibility to pharma campaigns. He previously served as a spokesperson for Novartis’ cancer drug Gleevec, following his diagnosis and successful treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia in the late 2000s.