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Experts Want You to Know These Atrial Fibrillation Facts

Atrial fibrillation is the most common of the serious types of irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias. Educate yourself with these illuminating facts to prevent and treat it better.

Heart Health By Ariba Khaliq / Jul 24, 2018

Knowing Atrial Fibrillation

An abnormal heart rate or an irregular heartbeat is known as an arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation is the most common type of it. If you have afib, the upper chambers of your heart beat in a rapid and disorganized way; this is called fibrillating. It can cause mild to severe symptoms and treatment options may vary from mild lifestyle changes to open heart surgery. If you are not educated about afib, you won’t be able to work closely with your doctor in alleviating the problem. Here are some facts that experts want you to know about atrial fibrillation.

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Afib can Happen to Young People Too

In the US, about three million people have atrial fibrillation and its risk increases as you age. So, reaching at the age 80 puts you at 10 to 15 percent chances of having it. Yes, the condition is more common among elderly, but younger people aren’t untouched from it and it can occur to you even if you are younger than 75.

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Symptoms of Afib can be Subtle to Severe

Atrial fibrillation demonstrates a range of signs and symptoms, and knowing them all works for your benefit. Shortness of breath and palpitations are the most common signs of afib but some people with it may just feel fatigued or vaguely sense that something is not right. Meanwhile, the symptoms in some people can be so severe that they land them into an emergency room. Such symptoms are intense chest pain, weakness, dizziness, or confusion.

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An EKG may not Detect Afib

When you experience palpitations, you would ideally call your doctor up. But, because palpitations are not regular or constant, they might not be detected by a single electrocardiogram. It is thus helpful to monitor the heart over time to correctly diagnose afib. One of the ways is to wear a Holter monitor for 24 to 48 hours, which will record your heart’s electrical activity. Another way for testing is to wear an event monitor for up to 30 days and push a button to record your heart rhythm when you feel symptoms.

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Afib Increases Your Stroke Risk

Atrial fibrillation is the cause behind 15 percent of all strokes. Afib makes the blood flow in the upper chambers of the heart slow, which allows the clot to form. These clots may travel to the brain and cause a stroke. A stroke is the biggest risk of having atrial fibrillation.

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Get Your Stroke Risk Evaluated on CHADS Scale

The CHADS score is a clinical prediction rule for estimating the risk of stroke in patients with non-rheumatic atrial fibrillation. It helps your doctors to prescribe the right medication to prevent stroke. CHADS in an acronym for congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, age over 75, diabetes, and history of a previous stroke. Any of these risk factors increases the threat of a stroke.

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You Might Not Know the Cause of Your Afib

For most cases of afib, the origin may remain unknown, but in order to treat it, triggers need to be looked for. Like there can be problems like thyroid, lung diseases, or heart valve diseases that may be the reason behind your heart palpitations. You should get yourself checked for these ailments through blood tests, X-rays, or echo cardiogram respectively. Certain other conditions that may give you afib are coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, sleep apnoea, and binge drinking.

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Afib Treatment is not Same for Everyone

Just like the symptoms, the treatment for every affected person with afib isn’t same. And there is no right or wrong treatment. Your doctor will treat you according to the symptoms you are experiencing and it can range from doing nothing about the condition to getting a surgery. Yes, one-size-fits-all doesn’t work here. Your treatment course may aim at preventing stroke, control heart rate and heart rhythm through medications, and restoring normal rhythm through procedures.

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Some Afibs can be Cured

A potential cure for atrial fibrillation is ablation. Even if it doesn’t cure the problem fully, it may reduce the need for medication substantially. Your doctor will prescribe for you a catheter ablation when other treatments aren’t working. This procedure involves a catheter that is inserted into your heart through a blood vessel in the leg or arm. Radio wave energy or a freezing solution is sent through the catheter to destroy the area inside the heart where the abnormal rhythm is generated.

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