Nearly 3-6 million people in the United States suffer from atrial fibrillation, which is the most common type of heart arrhythmia. AFib or AF, as it’s also known, can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart conditions. However, there are steps you can take to protect your heart from AFib.
At Cardiac and Vascular Consultants in Florida, our team of experienced and highly skilled cardiologists is dedicated to helping you stay healthy and preventing heart disease and other conditions like AFib. We have the background, training, and technology to diagnose cardiovascular problems and come up with a personalized prevention and treatment plan tailored specifically for you and your heart.
What is Atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is an arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat. When you experience AFib, the upper two chambers of your heart (the atria) beat irregularly. This irregular heartbeat can be rapid and quivering, or it could be a long-term health concern. AFib itself isn’t a life-threatening condition, but it’s a serious medical issue because you can develop blood clots in the upper chambers of your heart as a result.
What are the Symptoms for AFib?
Some people who have AFib don’t show any symptoms. AFib isn’t like a heart attack, which comes on suddenly. The effects of AFib happen over time. Over time, the condition can wear down the heart muscle. And when the ventricles have to work harder than normal to pump blood into the upper chambers, that’s when heart failure can occur. If you do have symptoms of atrial fibrillation, you may experience any of the following:
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Fainting, lightheadedness, or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty exercising
AFib is generally not cause for alarm, but if you experience any of these symptoms regularly, you should schedule an exam with one of our expert cardiologists so we can determine the underlying causes and prescribe appropriate, potentially life-saving treatment.
Risk Factors and Causes
Several different underlying causes can lead to atrial fibrillation, including:
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal heart valves
- Congenital heart defects
- Sleep apnea
- Coronary artery disease
- Previous heart surgery
- Viral infections
- Heart valve disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Congestive heart failure
The exact cause of atrial fibrillation isn’t clear, but the risk for the same increases as you get older. Additionally, certain risk factors that may lead to AFib include:
- Thyroid conditions
- Metabolic syndrome
- Family history of atrial fibrillation
- Being a white male
- Lung disease
- Drinking alcohol
Treating other health conditions and adopting a healthy lifestyle can help prevent AFib and protect your heart.
Care for your Heart
Atrial fibrillation can be treated and managed in many cases, but it often gets worse over time if you don’t take steps to protect your heart and prevent AFib from recurring. You can reduce your risk of AFib by following normal steps like
- Eating a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated fats
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Not smoking
- Not binge drinking alcohol
- Reducing caffeine intake
- Reducing salt intake
Your Consultant at CVCFL may prescribe medications to control your heart rhythm or blood thinners to prevent clots from forming, depending on the severity of your atrial fibrillation. In severe or chronic cases of AFib, your doctor may need to reset your heart rate and rhythm through electrical cardioversion or cardioversion with medications. Electrical cardioversion resets your heart’s rhythm by delivering a small electrical shock. Cardioversion with medication helps restore optimal heart rhythm through oral or IV medications.
If more conservative measures don’t produce the desired results, your cardiologist may recommend catheter and surgical procedures to restore heart rhythm or to implant a pacemaker.