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Atrial Fibrillation- Tips from Champion Heart and Vascular Center of North Carolina

October 3, 2021

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is common problem of the heart beat or heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation is commonly mentioned by doctors as A-Fib. This is due abnormal electrical activity that controls the heart beat. There are four chambers in the heart.  Like a synchronized swimmers for every beat of the top chamber bottom chamber responds appropriately. But in A-fib top chamber beats fast and irregular and therefore bottom chamber also beats irregularly. As you age, the risk of having atrial fibrillation increases and some individuals can feel the irregular and fast heart beat.

Is A-fib dangerous?

When heart beats irregularly due to A-fib, blood can pool in the top chambers and can form blood clot. This blood clot can travel to your brain and put you at a risk of stroke. 

How can I reduce the chance of getting A-fib?

There are many reasons for atrial fibrillation. Although aging cannot be reversed but there are ways to decrease the chance of atrial fibrillation

- Treating hormonal conditions such as thyroid issues

- Keeping weight under-control

- Regular exercise

- Decreasing intake of stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks and alcohol

- Blood pressure management

What are the causes of atrial fibrillation? As we discussed mostly the cause is unknown and aging population have increased prevalence of A-fib.  Other causes are - If you snore or have tiredness everday - check if you have sleep apnea - Hormonal issues such as hyperthyroidism - Smoking or other causes that leads to COPD - Alcoholism increases the risk - Heart attack and Heart surgery

- Uncontrolled high blood pressure

- Some medications and stimulants such as caffeine

What are the symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

May patients do not have any symptoms. Some may report - Heart racing - Lightheaded or dizziness - Difficulty in catching the breath - Chest tightness or skipped beats

How to check fo atrial fibrillation? Usually feeling a pulse or listening to heart by your doctor for an irregular pulse or heart beat. In the medical office electrocardiogram or ECG is done to check for atrial fibrillation. Another test called echocardiogram is done to check the size of the heart chambers.

How can you treat atrial fibrillation? Treating atrial fibrillation is mainly to prevent stroke. There are ways to make irregular heart rate to beat regular by medications or by minimally invasive treatment. Tackling Afib is by

- Decrease the rate of heart beat or making the heart beat to normal - Blood thinner to decrease formation of clot and preventing stroke - To make the heart beat normal - sometimes an electrical jolt may be done by the doctor under anesthesia or destroy the abnormal electrical signals using minimally invasive procedure called ablation.

Image of a Henderson, NC cardiologist's chest at a vascular care center.