Atrial fibrillation, or A-fib for short, is a heart condition affecting millions of Americans. Unfortunately, there may be many people living with atrial fibrillation who are yet to receive a diagnosis.
The good news is that treatment exists that can significantly reduce your risk of a complication. However, it’s important that you understand that this is a chronic condition that requires lifestyle changes on your part.
You can live a rich, enjoyable life with atrial fibrillation. Read ahead to get the facts and get the most out of each day.
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is a type of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia).
Fibrillation refers to the fast, irregular beat that characterizes this condition. This occurs in the atria, the two chambers at the top of the heart. They receive blood from the aorta and the lungs and send it to the ventricles.
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Atrial Fibrillation Causes
Atrial fibrillation can be due to many causes. Generally, it is related to some form of cardiovascular disease.
High blood pressure, previous heart attack, coronary artery disease, and valvular disease are commonly associated conditions. Any of these can lead to an abnormality of the heart conduction system.
Other conditions include lung diseases, overactive thyroid, diabetes, and alcoholism. It is also important to remember that many cases can have no obvious cause.
Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms
So, what is atrial fibrillation like? Oftentimes, A-fib presents without symptoms, especially early on in the course of the disease.
Heart palpitations are likely the most commonly reported symptom. This can feel like your heart is racing and/or fluttering. This alone can be very distressing for the person who experiences them.
Other symptoms include shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fainting, and chest pain. The duration of these episodes can vary. Emergent treatment may be necessary.
A Medical Emergency
It is important as ever that you monitor your health and any possible symptoms that may be related.
Having A-fib increases the risk of blood clot formation that could possibly travel to the brain and causes a stroke. This is known as a thromboembolism.
Preventing this debilitating and potentially fatal condition is one of the main rationales behind treating A-fib
Treatment of A-Fib
A-fib is a chronic condition that will require certain precautions and lifestyle changes.
Treating any of the predisposing conditions, such as high blood pressure or thyroid disease is paramount. Ways to improve your cardiovascular health include quitting smoking, light exercise, and healthy eating habits.
Some people may require anti-arrhythmic drugs or even cardioversion to regulate their heartbeat.
Anticoagulants prevent abnormal clotting which, in turn, prevents a stroke.
There are more definitive options for severe cases. These include surgical ablation and left atrial appendage occlusion. A pacemaker may be appropriate for some people.
Living With Atrial Fibrillation
This is a common condition that affects the lives of millions of Americans. Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options.
Living with atrial fibrillation shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the things you love.
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