Atrial fibrillation, known as AFib or AF, is a heart condition characterized by an irregular or rapid heartbeat. It is the most common type of arrhythmia, affecting more than 5 million adults in the United States. The top two chambers of the heart, (the atria) normally beat together in a regular fashion. AFib happens when the heart’s upper chambers beat out of coordination with the lower chambers, leading to an insufficient amount of blood flowing throughout the body. While AFib is one of the most widespread heart conditions that cardiologists treat, many patients still have questions concerning symptoms, treatment, and more. The experts at AMS Cardiology are sharing important characteristics and what to know about AFib.
What Are the Symptoms?
Many patients never experience any atrial fibrillation symptoms. Therefore, it’s important to schedule routine heart check ups where your doctor can perform an EKG. An EKG records electrical activity from your heart and can help diagnose AFib. Others may experience symptoms such as:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
What Are the Risk Factors?
Atrial fibrillation symptoms can be brought on by various factors, all of which can increase your chances of developing an arrhythmia. Certain risk factors proven to increase a person’s chance of developing AFib can include:
Age – the risk of developing AFib increases as you get older. It is estimated that over 40 million Americans over the age of 60 have one or more types of cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease – anyone who suffers from a heart condition, such as heart valve problems, congenital heart disease, coronary heart disease or a history of heart attacks has an increased risk of developing AFib.
High blood pressure – high blood pressure accounts for about 1 in 5 cases of AFib. It’s important to manage high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Chronic conditions – thyroid problems, diabetes, obesity, lung disease and more can all increase your risk of atrial fibrillation.
Lifestyle choices – living a healthy, active life can reduce your risk of developing AFib. Poor diet, lack of exercise, alcohol consumption and smoking can all contribute to your risk.
Family history – in some instances, a family history of atrial fibrillation can increase your risk.
How Is AFib Treated?
AFib can be occasional, persistent, long-standing persistent or permanent. In most persistent and permanent cases, it can be controlled and usually isn’t life-threatening. The majority of AFib cases can be treated with medications, like blood thinners, to prevent clots from forming. In more severe cases, procedures like electrical cardioversion or catheter ablation surgery may be used. Other approaches can include lifestyle or behavioral changes like weight loss, smoking cessation and maintaining an active lifestyle.
What to Know About AFib
It’s important to know that atrial fibrillation can increase your risk of stroke, causing about 1 in 7 strokes. If you’ve been diagnosed with AFib, meeting with your cardiologist regularly can minimize this risk. If you’ve been searching for the best cardiologists for AFib near me, stop your search now and contact the heart health experts at AMS Cardiology today.