Atrial Fibrillation: Our heart is the most important part of our body and keeping it healthy and without any risks is something we must be aware of. Of course, it is a well-known fact to everyone, but what people are unaware of are the numerous kinds of risks our heart has to face and hence expose themselves to many cardiac attacks. Atrial Fibrillation is one of such conditions that have such symptoms people seem to ignore. Atrial Fibrillation commonly known, as AF is the most common type of Arrhythmia (a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat). During an arrhythmia, one experiences an irregular, most often rapid and increased heart rate, which most probably increases your risk of stroke, a heart failure and other numerous heart complications.
Causes of Atrial Fibrillation
We all have basic knowledge about the heart and it’s four chambers and during atrial fibrillation, the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) beat irregularly out of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles). What really happens is, the atria fibrillate (to contract very fast and irregularly), blood gets collected in the atria and isn’t pumped properly into the ventricles, as a result, and these two chambers don’t work together as they should. These irregularities lead to the occurrence of Atrial Fibrillation.
It is very common that people may not see any symptoms or very mild symptoms even if they have atrial fibrillation.If the symptoms are seen, they could include:
- Palpitations – Heart beating faster or in an irregular way and you will be aware of this symptom.
- Chest pain or discomfort in the chest area.
- You might find it difficult to exercise.
- Shortness of breath leading to heavy breathing.
I suggest you see your cardiologist as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms.More to this, there are different types of atrial fibrillation, and symptoms will be determined by the type you have.
Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation causes your heart rate to suddenly beat rapidly and then return to normal. Symptoms of this might be mild or severe. Another type is the Persistent Atrial Fibrillation, which causes your heart rhyme to be abnormal for more than a week. This might need some treatment but might stop eventually on its own.Permanent Atrial Fibrillation is another type. As the name implies it is permanent and your normal heart rhythm cannot be restored even with having treatment.
If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, seeing your cardiologist is suggested.
Who is at risk?
Atrial Fibrillation is more common in…
- People who have high blood pressure.
- People who have Coronary heart disease (CHD).
- People who have Structural heart defects, such as mitral valve prolapse.
- People who have sick sinus syndrome (a condition in which the heart’s electrical. signals don’t fire properly and the heart rate slows down; sometimes the heart will switch back and forth between a slow rate and a fast rate).
- People who are having heart attacks.
- People who have just had surgery.
- People who have obesity, diabetes, and lung disease.
- People who usually drink a large amount of alcohol.
If you have Atrial Fibrillation it is most possible that you may not be aware of this. It is more possible that you might know about it by some chance when you see your doctor for some other reasons. If it is discovered, your doctor may review your sign and symptoms, ask for and review your medical history, and conduct a physical examination. Further to Diagnose Atrial Fibrillation your doctor may order various tests. These tests may include:
- An electrocardiogram (ECG) is attached to your chest and arms to sense and record electrical signals travelling through your heart.
- Halter monitor (a portable ECG device) is carried somewhere in your body to sense and record electrical signals travelling through your heart.
- Another test is Echocardiogram. In this test, sound waves are used to produce a video image of the heart. It is used to detect underlying structural heart disease.
- Your doctor might ask you for Blood tests as well, this will help your doctor to rule out thyroid problems.
- Stress test (exercise test) is another test that involves conducting tests on your heart while you are exercising.
- A chest x-ray is also required by your doctor to see the condition of your lungs and heart.
Although Atrial Fibrillation itself usually isn’t life-threatening and can come and go, you may develop permanent Atrial Fibrillation and may require treatment. It is a serious medical condition and sometimes may require emergency treatment. If not treated, it may lead to complications like blood clots forming in the heart and lead to blocked blood flow (ischemia).Regarding the procedures of treatment, it may vary in accordance with the symptoms you show. There are many treatment procedures such as:
- Resetting the heart’s rhythm: Doctors perform a procedure called cardioversion to reset the heart rate and rhythm to normal. Cardioversion can be processed with the use of medicines or electrical energy.
- Another treatment procedure is maintaining a normal heart rhythm. To do this, there are different medications available. Dofetilide (Tikosyn), Flecainide, Propafenone (Rythmol), Amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone), Sotalol (Beta pace, Sorine) are some medicines available. Although these medications help you with AF, there are some side effects of these medicines like Nausea, Fatigue and Dizziness.
- Heart rate control is another treatment, for which doctors may prescribe some medicines to control your heart rate. Digoxin (Lanoxin) is a medicine that is prescribed.
- Surgical procedures and catheter: There are some times when medications or cardioversion might not work. In such cases, a procedure is recommended that destroys the area of heart tissue that’s causing the erratic electrical signals. This procedure then restores your heart to a normal rate and rhythm. Catheter ablation and surgical maze are such procedures.
Although Atrial Fibrillation isn’t a serious condition, it may lead to some serious consequences. This is why you must always follow the doctor’s prescriptions and continue with the diagnosis and treatment process without any hesitations. The most important thing is prevention. The best ways to stay away from such condition is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Blood pressure sugar level should be maintained and obesity must be avoided at any cost. These will not only prevent you from Atrial Fibrillation but also keeps you away from much more heart diseases and improve your physical and mental health after all Health is Wealth.