Heart diseases are generally threatening and one such heart related ailments is Atrial fibrillation (Afib). An estimated number of 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib. But survey results reveal that less than half people with AF believe that they are with increased stroke risk and hospitalization.
Surprisingly, just one third of Afib patients consider it as a serious condition. In reality, Afib is a heart condition which may lead to higher heart stroke risk and related death. Hence, it is highly important to increase the awareness of Afib among people around us. Read the HealthSpectra post learn about the symptoms, prevention and treatment for Afib .
What Is AFIB And What Are The Symptoms?
AFIB is a condition of irregular heartbeat. Fluttering or quivering heartbeat causes abnormal firing of electrical impulses, eventually leading to the quivering of the top chambers of the heart called atria. The normal range for a heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. The heart rate in atrial fibrillation may range from 100 to 175 beats a minute.
More symptoms of AFIB or Atrial fibrillation include fatigue, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, chest fluttering, anxiety, shortness of breath, weakness, sweating, faintness, chest pain etc. At the same time, some people with Afib does not notice any symptoms at all.
To detect if you have AFib, check for:
- Irregular and rapid heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Rapid thumping inside the chest
- Chest pain
- Tiring easily
The AFib condition may lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. Some discover that they are with Af during routine check ups.
Types Of AFib:
Different types of Atrial fibrillation (AFib) have similar symptoms. Types are classified based on the underlying reasons for AFIB and its duration. They include Persistent AFib, Paroxysmal fibrillation, Long-standing AFib, Permanent AFib, and Nonvalvular AFib.
1. Paroxysmal Fibrillation:
- AFIB episodes may occur a few times each year
- Symptoms are unpredictable
- Condition gets back to normal with or without intervention within a week
- It can turn into permanent AFIB
2. Persistent AFib:
- Irregular rhythm lasts for more than 1 week
- Requires treatment to get back to normal rhythm
3. Long-standing AFib:
- Heart consistently maintains irregular rhythm
- The condition lasts for more than 12 months
4. Permanent AFib:
- The condition lasts for indefinite period.
- No further attempts can be made to restore normal rhythm
5. Nonvalvular AFib:
- Caused by a heart valve issue
Any AFib type increases stroke risk for nearly 5 times compared to someone who does not have atrial fibrillation. Symptoms for any heart disease are same for almost all the heart problems.
Note: Pressure or pain in the chest is a medical emergency that may lead to heart attack. Do not neglect chest pain.
What Causes AFib Condition?
Damage to the heart’s structure or abnormalities are the main causes of atrial fibrillation. Other potential causes for AF include:
- Past heart attacks
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal heart valves
- Coronary artery disease
- Congenital heart defects
- Overactive thyroid
- Lung diseases
- Viral infections
- Sleep apnea
- Stress due to pneumonia
- Previous heart surgeries
However, a single cause for the condition of Atrial fibrillation is not clear and serious complications are generally rare. Risk of stroke increases with AFib.
Why AFib Increases The Chances Of Stroke?
Heart functions normally to contract and relax to produce regular heart beats. But in the case of atrial fibrillation, the atria i.e. the upper heart chambers beat irregularly and will not be able to effectively pump blood into the ventricles.
- If a clot breaks off and lodges in an artery leading to the brain stroke occurs.
- Nearly 20% people who have this heart arrhythmia face strokes.
- Thus, such patients are kept on blood thinners.
Be FAST at spotting the warning signs of stroke.
- Face drooping – to check ask the person to smile; observe if one side of the face is drooping.
- Arm weakness – ask the person to raise both the arms; check if one arm is going numb or drifting downward.
- Speech difficulty – ask the person to repeat simple sentences, check if his speech is slurred, if he is understanding.
- Time to call – if any of these symptoms are observed, time to call for immediate medical help.
How to Treat AFIB?
Treatment for AFib saves lives and decreases the stroke risk. Several treatments options are available and are chosen based on the extent of the complication and the underlying cause of the disease.
- Medications: Medicines such as beta blockers or antiarrhythmics can be prescribed to help return the patient’s heart rate to a normal rhythm. Medicines, such as calcium channel blockers or amiodarone, digitalis help bring down the heart rate to normal. Doctor may also prescribe blood thinners to stop the formation of blood clots.
- Electrical cardioversion or an electric shock can be applied to the patient to change the get back the heartbeat to normal.
- A pacemaker surgery or other procedures may also be suggested.
If you are with AFib and need to reduce your stroke risk, doctor may keep you drugs that do not allowing blood clotting. Anticoagulants and antiplatelets (warfarin and aspirin) are generally prescribed. Anticoagulants like NOACs — dabigatran, rivoraxaban and apixaban are also prescribed.
How To Prevent AFIB?
Try leading a healthier life to prevent atrial fibrillation and reduce your risk of heart disease. A healthy lifestyle usually include:
- Taking the right diet with all required nutrients.
- Increasing the daily physical activity.
- Quit smoking.
- Maintain healthy weight.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Reduce daily stress levels.
- Keep your cool and avoid anger that causes heart rhythm.
- Do not use OTCs that trigger rapid heartbeat.
In conclusion, if you are your dear ones are suffering with AFib, help them learn more about what AFib is, and how treatment can save lives. The most important steps to follow is to know the symptoms of AFIB, get right treatment at the right time and reduce the risk of stroke with health lifestyle and medical aid. Keep reading our HealthSpectra posts to lead a healthiest life!