What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation or, for short, AFib occurs when the heart beats irregularly, too fast or too slow. This can happen in episodes or can be a permanent condition. Because the upper chambers of the heart do not beat normally, often blood does not flow as efficiently to the lower chambers. What symptoms result from this?
- Severe fatigue
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fluttering or pounding heart
While many with AFib do experience one or more of these symptoms, others experience no symptoms at all. Hence, they may not even know they have this condition. That leads to the question: Who is at risk?
Risk Factors For AFib
Why It Requires Medical Attention
While it is not usually life-threatening in itself, it can cause blood clots. These clots can break off and travel to the brain. When these block an artery or blood vessel and blood flow to the brain is interrupted, a stroke is the result. The bad news is that a person with AFib is five times more likely to have a stroke!
On the other hand, treatment prevents 60 to 80% of AFib-related strokes. Needless to say, diagnosis and, more importantly, treatment after diagnosis are the keys. What kinds oftreatments might your doctor suggest if you are found to have atrial fibrillation?
- Anticoagulants (medications that reduce the risk of blood clots, which lead to stroke)
- Antiarrhythmic drugs (medications to regulate the heartbeat)
- Devices that regulate irregular heartbeat
- A procedure called cardiac ablation, which prevents abnormal electrical signals from traveling through the heart
- Defibrillator (to prevent cardiac arrest in those with abnormally fast heart rates)
Increase AFib Awareness
In the end, anyone can fall victim to atrial fibrillation. Studies show that many people who are at risk are not getting the preventative treatments that they need. So through education and the raising of awareness, more people can be diagnosed and treated before a devastating health crisis arises.