Cardiovascular

Out of Rhythm: The Dangers of AFib

Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, is a heart condition where the atria, the upper parts of the heart, contract irregularly and don’t push blood into the ventricles as they should. Electrical impulses are what signals your heart to beat, and AFib is the result of irregular impulses. Learn more about AFib and how you can manage it.

Signs and Symptoms of AFib

The symptoms of AFib vary, and some people even report not having any noticeable signs of the condition. Some common symptoms you might notice are a fluttering or rapid heartbeat, fatigue, dizziness, and weakness. If you have any of these symptoms, visit your doctor.

Who’s at Risk?

Anyone, regardless of age, can get AFib, but some factors can increase your risk of developing the condition. Your chances increase the older you get, and certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or sleep apnea, also lead to a higher risk. People with family members who have AFib are also at an increased risk, so make sure you know your family’s medical history.

Why It’s Important to Seek Treatment

If you have untreated AFib, you are more likely to experience life-threatening medical emergencies. Your risk of a heart attack doubles and your risk of a stroke is five times greater than average. Because of these risks, it’s especially important to locate your nearest ER before an emergency occurs. Managing AFib with the help of your doctor can help protect you from a life-changing medical event.

Potential Treatments for Atrial Fibrillation

There are many treatments for AFib, which include medication and both non-surgical and surgical procedures. Medications include blood thinners, heart rate controllers, and heart rhythm controllers. Non-surgical procedures consist of electrical cardioversion (when a doctor uses defibrillator paddles to reset your heartbeat to its normal rhythm) and radiofrequency or catheter ablation (when a doctor intentionally scars parts of the heart so it can no longer send the abnormal signals that cause the heart to beat irregularly).

If these treatments don’t work for you, there are alternatives. Surgical options include a pacemaker implant, the open heart maze procedure, and the WATCHMAN procedure (which traps blood clots to prevent them from escaping and causing a stroke). Speak with your cardiologist to see if you qualify for one of these procedures.

If you have concerning symptoms or are due for a checkup, schedule an appointment with a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician. If you are looking for ways to manage your AFib, our cardiologists are here to help.


Sources
American Heart Association | What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)?
American Heart Association | What are the Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)?
American Heart Association | Who is at Risk for Atrial Fibrillation (AFib of AF)?
American Heart Association | Atrial Fibrillation Medications
American Heart Association | Non-surgical Procedures for Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)
American Heart Association | Surgical Procedures for Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)
WATCHMAN | How the WATCHMAN Device Works

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