Atrial Fibrillation is a severe condition of irregular and rapid heartbeat (arrhythmia) that increases the risk of a blood clot in the heart, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. As abnormal electrical impulses occur, the heart's top chambers (atria) fibrillates, hence being unsynchronized with the heart's lower chambers (ventricles).
Instead of both the heart chambers working together simultaneously to keep the blood flowing, the atria produces fast and chaotic rhythms, making it difficult to move the blood to the ventricles. Anyone with heart diseases like congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, or a history of a heart attack is at risk of atrial fibrillation.
During atrial fibrillation, your heart rate may rise 100 to 175 beats per minute instead of the regular 60 to 100 beats per minute. The rapid and irregular heart rhythm has no singular cause. It is associated with the following condition:
High blood pressure
Heart valve problems
After a heart surgery
Coronary artery disease
Congenital heart disease
Apart from the causes associated with atrial fibrillation, some risk factors that have to be kept in check are:
Heart diseases and birth defects
High alcohol consumption
Excessive use of caffeine and certain drugs
Chronic conditions like diabetes or kidney disease
Atrial fibrillation can be occasional or persistent. The symptoms may go away, or you may not notice them, but if you do, call 911 immediately. Some of the common symptoms of atrial fibrillation you may feel are:
Chest discomfort or pain
Shortness of breath
Many are unaware that they have atrial fibrillation and are detected when physicians listen to the heart during a physical exam. There are different tests done to see the heart's electrical activity, be it occasional or persistent. They include:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
Based on the severity of the symptoms and the patient's condition, the physician will recommend the best type of treatment. It can be lifestyle changes, medications, therapy, or surgery. Treating atrial fibrillation aims to reset the heart rhythm, control the heart rate, prevent blood clots, and reduce the risk of a stroke.
Some of the suggested lifestyle changes include:
Keep a healthy diet
Limit alcohol intake
Control blood sugar level
Treat sleep apnea
Medications like beta-blockers, anti-arrhythmic drugs, blood thinners, and heart rate control drugs will benefit the treatment. Electrical cardioversion, drug cardioversion, pulmonary vein ablation are other methods used to treat atrial fibrillation.
If the atrial fibrillation is persistent after the above treatments or a blood clot in the left atrium, the patient may require surgical treatments. Some of the procedures include:
Atrioventricular (AV) node ablation
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