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Atrial Fibrillation (Afib)

Overview

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a common heart rhythm condition that affects millions of people throughout the world. Atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF) is a type of irregular heartbeat. AFib can occur with no symptoms and can cause life threatening cardiac events like stroke, heart failure, and blood clots if not treated.

The normal contraction of the muscle fibers of the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) typically allow for the coordinated and complete emptying of blood from the heart’s upper chambers into its lower ones (the ventricles). Atrial fibrillation is a serious condition that can occur without any signs or symptoms but can result in life-threatening complications if left untreated.

Estimates of the prevalence of AFib in the United States range from about 2.7 million to 6.1 millionTrusted Source. That number is estimated to rise to 12.1 million in 2030. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, approximately 2 percent of people younger than 65 years old have AFib, while about 9 percent of people ages 65 and older have it.

According to a 2013 reviewTrusted Source, people who don’t identify as white have a lower prevalence and incidence of having AFib.

Causes

The increased risk of stroke is one of the most significant issues. Blood can collect in the atria ( upper chambers of the heart)  during AFib, and when it doesn’t flow properly, it can create clots. Because these clots have the potential to move to the brain and cause a stroke, AFib is frequently associated with an increased risk of stroke. Patients with AFib are frequently prescribed anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners) to avoid clot development.

The condition can have various underlying Atrial fibrillation causes, including:

  • Age: The risk of AFib increases with age, especially in people over 60.
  • Heart Conditions: AFib can be caused by conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), heart valve disease, coronary artery disease, and congenital heart defects.
  • Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome: Atrial Fibrillation can be triggered by diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as elevated blood sugar levels and metabolic disturbances contribute to irregular heart rhythms.
  • Lung and Kidney Disease: Conditions affecting the lungs and kidneys, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or renal failure, may lead to Atrial Fibrillation due to their impact on overall cardiovascular health.
  • Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea increases the risk of Atrial Fibrillation by causing intermittent pauses in breathing during sleep, disrupting oxygen levels and putting strain on the heart.
  • Hyperthyroidism: A hyperactive thyroid gland in hyperthyroidism can contribute to Atrial Fibrillation by accelerating heart rate and disrupting the normal rhythm of the heart’s contractions.
  • Excessive alcohol and stimulant usage: Excessive alcohol and stimulant use might cause AFib episodes.
  • Family History: If you have a family history of AFib, you are more likely to acquire the condition.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can put you at risk for AFib.

Symptoms

Atrial fibrillation symptoms can vary from person to person and may include:

  • Irregular Heartbeat: AFib is distinguished by an irregular and frequently fast heartbeat.
  • Palpitations: Your heart may race, flutter, or pound in your chest.
  • Fatigue: AFib can cause fatigue and a reduction in exercise tolerance.
  • Shortness of Breath: You may have shortness of breath, particularly after physical exertion.
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness: Some people with AFib experience dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Chest Pain: Although less prevalent, chest discomfort or pain might occur.

Diagnosis

A healthcare provider may perform the following tests for atrial fibrillation diagnosis:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This test detects AFib by recording the electrical activity of the heart.
  • Holter Monitor: A Holter Monitor is a portable ECG equipment that is worn for a day or more to record intermittent AFib episodes.
  • Event Monitor: Like a Holter monitor, but worn for a more extended period, it records heart activity when you have symptoms.
  • Blood tests: These tests can aid in the identification of underlying reasons, such as thyroid issues.
  • Echocardiogram: An ultrasound of the heart that provides information on the structure and function of the heart.

Treatment

Atrial fibrillation treatment is diverse, with the core goals of symptom control, complication avoidance, and addressing underlying causes. Healthcare practitioners have several choices for managing this common cardiac rhythm problem.

To maintain a constant heart rate:

  • Antiarrhythmic drugs to regulate heart rhythm
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) to minimize the risk of stroke
  • Cardioversion is also used to restore a normal heart rhythm (but only when necessary)
  • Atrial fibrillation ablation, a treatment that involves the elimination of troublesome cardiac tissues, is also opted to correct irregular heartbeats

Other suggested treatment options may include:

  • Surgical operation
  • Eliminating alcohol
  • Limiting caffeine consumption
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

The choice of treatment option is based on the individual’s exact condition and needs – To make sure that your heart receives the healthcare support it needs at Manhattan Medical Arts, we offer the following cardiology services:

  • Prompt Appointment Booking Process
  • Cardiology Consultation
  • Vascular ultrasound
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiography
  • Cardiovascular Screening
  • Nuclear Cardiology
  • Cardiac Health Counseling and Advice
  • Cardiac Exercise/Stress Test

When To See A Doctor

If you have palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or chest discomfort, you should seek medical assistance right away. Regular check-ups with a healthcare professional can also help with early detection and management if you have risk factors for AFib, such as high blood pressure or a family history of the condition. Effectively managing AFib can lower the risk of problems and enhance your quality of life.

Disclaimer

This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about Atrial fibrillation or any other medical condition, please see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.

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