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Atrial fibrillation (A-Fib)
A-Fib is an abnormal heart rhythm that involves the atria (the two upper chambers of the heart). Instead of making a strong beat, the atria quiver or fibrillate. This is a problem because it causes the heartbeat to become irregular. Sometimes, your heartbeat with A-Fib goes too fast. Blood does not flow through the heart as well as it should, which may cause it to form clots. These blood clots may leave the heart and enter the brain, where they can cause a stroke.
Risk Factors for A-Fib
Some risk factors for A-Fib are:
High blood pressure
Birth or congenital conditions
How to Reduce the Risk of A-Fib
Some ways to help reduce the risk of A-Fib:
Lower your blood pressure
Lower your cholesterol
Lose excess weight
Eat a heart healthy diet
Stop taking street drugs
Do not drink alcohol
Use your sleep apnea mask or get checked for sleep apnea
Symptoms of A-Fib
Some people have no symptoms at all and do not know that they have A-Fib until it is found by a doctor. Others may feel:
Lightheaded, faint, weak
Short of breath
Feel like your heart is beating very fast
A-Fib is diagnosed through an electrocardiogram (EKG). An EKG uses wires and patches attached to your chest to graph of the heart’s electrical activity. It is an easy, non-invasive test.
The treatment goals for A-Fib may include:
Keeping the heart out of A-Fib and in a regular rhythm (known as rhythm control).
Keeping the heart rate in a normal range of 60-100 beats per minute (known as rate control).
Preventing blood clots and stroke.
Preventing other heart problems.
There are many ways to treat A-Fib. Your doctor will help decide what is right for you. Treatments could include:
Medicine: We may prescribe certain medicines to help slow down your heart rate.
Blood thinners: We may prescribe blood thinners to prevent a clot from forming in the heart.
Cardioversion: We would use this to put your heart back into a normal rhythm. We give you an electric shock on the outside of your chest to “reset” your heartbeat. You will be
sedated so you will not be aware of the shock.
Ablation: Your doctor may want to try an ablation. This involves sending “heat” or “freeze” energy to the part of the heart that causes the A-Fib. This will change the electrical pattern of the heart tissue and help the heart return to a normal rhythm. You will have this done in a hospital. You will be sedated so you will not feel it.
Living with A-Fib
You should know the signs and symptoms of a stroke when you have A-Fib. You have a higher risk of stroke when you have A-Fib. Take your medicines to control your A-fib and to prevent stroke.
Signs of Stroke
If someone shows any of these signs or symptoms of a stroke, call 911: