Atrial fibrillation (a-fib)

What is Atrial fibrillation (a-fib)?

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that is more common as one ages. Also known as A-fib, atrial fibrillation often predisposes individuals to strokes, heart failure, or other cardiac diseases. In atrial fibrillation the conduction of the heart is out of sync causing the upper chambers of the heart and the lower chambers of the heart to contract off beat. The condition itself may not be fatal, but it increases the likelihood of developing clots and sending them throughout the body. It may be momentary, but if it persists your doctor may choose to treat your A-fib with medication. 

Atrial fibrillation affects 2.3 million americans. It is usually more common in individuals over the age of sixty- five. Additionally, A-fib is seen more in men, and it is more likely to develop in the white population than asian, hispanic or black populations.

What causes Atrial fibrillation (a-fib)?

Atrial fibrillation is usually seen in adults over the age of sixty-five, but there are other risk factors that may predispose someone to developing the condition. Various cardiac conditions such as hypertension, prior heart attacks, and valvular diseases can cause atrial fibrillation. Additionally, individuals who are obese, have sleep apnea, or are alcoholic have increased risk for developing A-fib. Diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, hyperthyroidism, and some medications can also cause atrial fibrillation. 

What are the symptoms of Atrial fibrillation (a-fib)?

Some patients with A-fib report having no symptoms, while others might have mild to severe symptoms. Mild symptoms of atrial fibrillation include palpitations, mild chest pressure or pain, lightheadedness, or a feeling of heart racing. It is common to experience fatigue or shortness of breath while exerting yourself. It is important if you are experiencing severe symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, fainting, or severe fatigue to contact your doctor immediately. Individuals with A-fib are at an increased risk of developing a stroke so it is important to beware of the signs of stroke. 

How to treat Atrial fibrillation (a-fib)?

For patients who have atrial fibrillation it is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, you should have a healthy diet, increase your exercise, avoid smoking, and manage a healthy weight. Additionally, you should avoid stressors, limit alcohol and caffeine, and avoid some over the counter medications that can accelerate your heart beat like some cough and cold medicines. Your doctor may choose to start you on some medications that will control your cardiac rhythm or rate. If need be, your doctor can perform cardioversion, which is a procedure that will reset your heart rhythm. For more information click here.

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