Did you know that Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is the most common heart arrhythmia? Heart problems are a growing concern in the United States. In fact, the CDC estimates that 12.1 million Americans will have AFib by the year 2030.
So, what is AFib? Keep reading on to find out.
What is AFib?
AFib occurs when there is an irregular heartbeat. In many cases, patients will have an increase in their heart rate as well.
AFib itself is typically not a life-threatening condition. However, it can cause additional health conditions making it crucial to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
When AFib occurs, the heart’s upper chambers do not beat in sync with the heart’s lower chambers.
When this happens, the blood can pool in the upper chambers of the heart. This pooling of blood increases the risk of blood clots developing. The blood clots can then circulate to other organs block blood flow to vital organs.
Living with AFib may feel different from person to person. Tiredness and a faster heart rate are two of the most common early signs of AFib. Additional symptoms of AFib include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain or chest pressure
- Shortness of breath
Some patients know immediately they are experiencing atrial fibrillation because they have noticeable heart palpitations.
However, other patients may not experience these heart palpitations and may have more severe symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. Some patients do not know they have AFib until they get a routine check-up or pre-procedure EKG.
Additional Health Risks
Routine tests are essential since symptoms of AFib can vary from person to person.
Untreated and undiagnosed AFib can lead to serious health problems like stroke. Or AFib can lead to other heart issues such as heart failure, heart attack, or sudden cardiac arrest.
Risk Factors for AFib
Some patients develop AFib due to family history. However, if AFib is caused by genetics, most patients are diagnosed in their teens or early 20s.
If diagnosed later in life, it is usually caused by other risk factors, including uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnea, excessive alcohol consumption, and thyroid issues.
Treatment for AFib
While there is currently no cure for AFib, there are treatment options available. If you are diagnosed with AFib, it is important to talk with your doctor to find a treatment plan that will work best for you. Your treatment option may change based on your symptoms and the underlying cause of your AFib.
There are several medication options that may help depending on the cause of the AFib. For example, your doctor may prescribe beta-blockers, a calcium channel blocker, or digoxin to help slow down your heart rate.
Your doctor may also prescribe an antiarrhythmic medication to help return your heart to a normal rhythm.
Since patients with AFib are at an increased risk for blood clots, an anticoagulant or antiplatelet medication may be prescribed to help prevent blood clots.
Some procedures and surgeries can treat AFib as well. For example, electrical cardioversion, catheter ablation, or pacemaker may be options to discuss with your doctor as treatment options.
AFib is a serious heart condition that can lead to severe health conditions. While some may have symptoms, not everyone does. Therefore, routine doctor appointments are crucial in some patients’ diagnoses.
There are treatment options available, and while there is no cure for AFib, it can be managed. So, now that you know the answer to “what is AFib?”, it is crucial to seek medical attention if you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of AFib.
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