How To Decrease Your Risk Of Atrial Fibrillation
There is a strong association between AF and high blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. Simple lifestyle changes such as the below could help to prevent and manage AF as well as improve overall health and wellbeing.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Developing Atrial Fibrillation
If you have other medical conditions or a family history of Afib, you may feel like its impossible to prevent. Its true that some risk factors cant be changed. However, the four major risk factors for Afib that we can change are obesity, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use. Here are some tips to lower your risk:
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Quit smoking and using tobacco products. It can be hard to do this alone. With the right resources and support, you can achieve this goal and make your heart healthier.
As you lower these risk factors, you will also see other benefits like reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and weight loss. When it comes to heart health, each positive lifestyle change has a ripple effect. The more changes you can make, the more benefits you will enjoy in the long run.
Medicines To Control Atrial Fibrillation
Medicines called anti-arrhythmics can control atrial fibrillation by:
- restoring a normal heart rhythm
- controlling the rate at which the heart beats
The choice of anti-arrhythmic medicine depends on:
- the type of atrial fibrillation
- any other medical conditions you have
- side effects of the medicine chosen
- how well the atrial fibrillation responds.
Some people with atrial fibrillation may need more than one anti-arrhythmic medicine to control it.
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What Are The Treatments For Atrial Fibrillation
The main goals of Afib treatment include:
- Controlling your heart rate.
- Regaining a normal heart rhythm.
- Reducing your risk of having a stroke.
Based on your symptoms, your healthcare provider will likely first prescribe medications to see if they help.
Medications to treat Afib may include:
- Rate control medications to prevent the ventricles from beating too fast. Examples include digoxin, metoprolol, verapamil or diltiazem.
- Rhythm control medications to help your heart beat in a normal sinus rhythm. Examples include procainamide, disopyramide, flecainide acetate, propafenone, sotalol, dofetilide or amiodarone.
- Blood thinners to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. Examples include warfarin, warfarin alternatives or aspirin.
Any medications can cause side effects. Rate control and rhythm control medications may make your arrhythmia worse or impact your lungs, liver or other organs. Blood thinners can cause bleeding, indigestion or a heart attack. Usually, the benefits of taking these medications outweigh your risk of side effects. Its important to discuss all risks and side effects with your provider.
Procedures and surgeries
If medications dont help your Afib, you may need a procedure or surgery.
Many procedures can be non-invasive, and newer treatment methods and technologies are constantly developing. Talk with your provider about the options that are best for you.
Can Afib go away?
Precautions For Exercising With Afib
There are health and safety precautions for anyone engaging in physical activity, and several additional precautions for those with a heart rhythm disorder.
Certain AFib medications, like beta blockers, can decrease your normal heart rate. Therefore your heart rate will not get as high as the average persons while exercising. The heart rate guides and monitors on cardio machines like ellipticals or treadmills wont be accurate for someone with AFib who is taking these medications. To measure your heart rate while exercising, health care experts recommend using a chest strap or a watch-like fitness tracker.
The type of AFib you have is also important when considering exercise options. If you have paroxysmal AFib, when the heart beats irregularly only now and then , it is best to exercise when your heart is beating normally. With persistent AFib, when a person has an irregular heart beat all of the time, it is OK to exercise whenever youre feeling well enough.
Before starting any exercise program, consult your doctor. They can help determine the best type of exercise for you and also help to get your arrhythmia symptoms under control before you engage in physical activity. Ask your doctor any questions you have about exercising and physical exertion, and feel free to ask for recommendations about classes and activity programs for people with AFib.
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What Will They Do In The Er To Treat Afib
A common barrier to people seeking medical attention for an AFib attack is a lack of education about what the medical providers in the emergency room will do to manage their symptoms.
The most common intervention performed in the emergency room for patients with atrial fibrillation is the use of heart rate and rhythm altering medications. These medications will be used to reduce the speed and normalize the rhythm of the heart to reduce the severity of symptoms. The most commonly used AFib medications in the emergency room include:
All the medications above are available in intravenous forms and provide relatively rapid onset of action. Metoprolol, diltiazem, and digoxin are mostly used for heart rate control. Meanwhile, amiodarone has both heart rate and heart rhythm controlling properties. There are pros and cons with the use of any of these medications, and thus, their use needs to be monitored closely.
Your team of medical staff will monitor your symptoms before, during, and after these medications are used to control your episode. Medical testing such as vital monitoring and ECG readings may also be done to evaluate the success of the treatment. In severe cases, a patient may require electrical cardioversion or emergency surgery if their heart rate cannot be normalized and their symptoms are profound.
Can Exercise Cause Afib
Most of my patients are shocked to learn that people who runmarathons, competitively cycle, or do Ironman triathlons are five times morelikely to develop AFib! What is particularly perplexing, however, isthat studies have not tended to show higher rates of arrhythmias in athleteswho participate in other strenuous forms of exercise, such as boxing, wrestlingand weight-lifting.
There is something particular about endurance sports thatincreases the risk of AFib. One exception to this may be football. Amongformer NFL athletes, the risk of AFib is six times higher, although this may bedue to the use of performance-enhancing substances or the weight theseathletes put on to compete at a professional level.
Also, it bears noting that while aggressively competing in endurance sportsmight put you at a greater risk of AFib, participation in these activitiescertainly does not guarantee youl get AFib. It is reassuring to note that non-competitive recreational participation in endurance sports, even if it is a marathon ortriathlon, doesn seem to put you at risk of AFib.
I have found over the years that almost all of my athletes with AFib have opted for an early ablation. They simply cant or dont want to exercise with the usual cocktail of AFib drugs that are prescribed. And fortunately for athletes, we typically get excellent results as studies show that the AFib ablation success rates are up to 3 times higher with athletes!
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What If I Need Surgery For A
If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Watkins Clinic for pre-operative information and tests. The day of surgery, your care will be provided by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in surgery for patients with atrial fibrillation. After surgery, you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.
During your surgery, family and friends can wait in the Shapiro Family Center. Staff members will provide surgery updates and caregivers who leave the hospital will be contacted by cell phone.
Risks Associated With Atrial Fibrillation
The main danger of AF is the associated risk of stroke. This is present even if AF is only experienced some of the time, and whether or not the AF shows symptoms. One in every three strokes is linked to AF, and AF-linked strokes are more severe than other strokes. People with AF are also five times more likely to have a stroke compared to those who do not have AF.6
People with AF are also at increased risk of dementia. This link is independent of stroke and other risk factors, although whether the link is causal is not yet known.
Will Atrial Fibrillation Make My Life Harder
You might find it harder when getting used to a new routine. AF is a manageable condition and with the right treatment you can carry on as you were before you were diagnosed.
Talking to people about your condition can be hard. Dealing with stress and anxiety is also common after being told you have a heart condition. Visit our emotional support hub for advice and support if youre struggling with the change of pace.
What Is Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm that begins in the upper of your heart. If you have atrial fibrillation, the normal cycle of electrical impulses in your heart is interrupted. This leads to a fast, chaotic heart rhythm and poor movement of blood from your atria to your lower chambers .
There are three main types of atrial fibrillation.
- Paroxysmal Afib lasts less than one week and usually stops on its own without treatment.
- Persistent Afib lasts more than one week and needs treatment.
- Long-standing persistent Afib lasts more than a year and is sometimes difficult to treat.
Afib, if untreated, can lead to a stroke and other serious medical complications. Thats why its important to learn the symptoms and talk with your healthcare provider about your personal risk factors.
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How Is Hri Fighting Atrial Fibrillation
HRI is tackling the widespread problem of AF from a broad range of research angles. The mission of our Heart Rhythm and Stroke Prevention Group is to prevent as many strokes as possible through early detection of silent AF, and to implement appropriate guideline-based management. With a clinical implementation focus, the Group is exploring novel strategies using eHealth tools and patient self-screening to detect unknown silent AF.
If screening for AF could be implemented more widely in people aged 65 and older, along with preventative treatments being prescribed as advised in guidelines, then thousands of strokes could be avoided globally, making a difference to patients and their families.
Symptoms Of Atrial Fibrillation
The most obvious symptom of atrial fibrillation is palpitations caused by a fast and irregular heartbeat.
A normal heart rate, when you are resting, should be between 60 and 100 beats a minute. In atrial fibrillation, it may be over 140 beats a minute.
If you notice an irregular heartbeat and/or have chest pain, see your doctor immediately.
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Living With Atrial Fibrillation
The irregular occurrence of AF episodes can be stressful, but there are a number of steps you can take to help you stay on top of your AF and continue to live a full and active life.
- Follow your doctors advice carefully. Your doctor may advise lifestyle and dietary adjustments, and provide strict guidelines around any prescribed medications. Follow these carefully for the best health outcomes.
- Keep a record of your symptoms. Write down whenever you experience an AF episode and how long it lasts, as well as any other symptoms. Bring this record to your next doctors appointment.
- Check your pulse regularly and keep a record. Take your own pulse regularly, and keep a record to show your doctor. This will help highlight if there are any changes in your heartbeat to keep an eye on.
- Learn your triggers. In some people, bouts of AF can be triggered by certain foods, exercises, stimulants or even stress. Noting down the context each time you experience AF can help you to identify whether you have a trigger and to avoid it in the future.
Categories Of Atrial Fibrillation
Your atrial fibrillation will fall into one of several categories. This classification system is spelled out in the 2014 AHA/ACC/HRS Guidelines for the Management of Patients with Atrial Fibrillation that is used by cardiologists, electrophysiologists, and surgeons.
- Paroxysmal, or intermittent episodes that come and go and last seven days or less
- Persistent continuous atrial fibrillation that lasts more than seven days
- Longstanding persistent continuous afib that lasts longer than one year
- Permanent continuous atrial fibrillation in which a decision has been made by the patient and the doctor not to try to restore normal sinus rhythm by any means, including catheter or surgical ablation
Afib is progressive. Afib begets afib. You may start out with intermittent or paroxysmal atrial fibrillation and over time migrate to persistent atrial fibrillation. Or you may start out with persistent afib and migrate to longstanding persistent afib, or even permanent afib.
For purposes of discussing treatment here, we will discuss only paroxysmal, persistent and longstanding persistent atrial fibrillation. There are so many options now for atrial fibrillation treatment that the decision to not treat, and thus to be in permanent atrial fibrillation, is becoming increasingly rare. Some doctors now consider permanent afib to be an obsolete category.
First, lets explore Why Afib is a Problem.
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What Causes Atrial Fibrillation To Start
Changes or damage to your hearts tissue and electrical system cause atrial fibrillation. Usually, coronary artery disease or high blood pressure causes those changes. Often a trigger heartbeat causes atrial fibrillation to begin. But sometimes its hard to know the cause of that triggered heartbeat. For some people, there is no identifiable cause. Research is constantly providing new information to help us learn more about the
Afib often runs in families. So, if a close family member has Afib, you have a family history and therefore a higher chance of developing it, too.
Can atrial fibrillation be caused by anxiety?
We dont fully know the connections between atrial fibrillation and anxiety. Research has identified Afib as a cause of anxiety . But few studies have explored anxiety as a cause of Afib. We do know that anxiety can raise your risk of cardiovascular disease and causes a 48% higher risk of cardiac death. However, we need more research to find out if anxiety disorders can cause Afib.
Do You Offer Ablation For A
We offer a variety of treatments, including Catheter ablation . Other treatments include:
- Cardioversion – During brief sedation administered by an anesthesiologist, this procedure delivers an electrical current through the chest wall to the heart through special electrodes or paddles that are applied to the skin of the chest and back. The purpose of the cardioversion is to interrupt the abnormal electrical circuit in the heart and to restore a normal heartbeat. The delivered shock causes all the heart cells to contract simultaneously, thereby interrupting and terminating the abnormal electrical rhythm without damaging the heart. The hearts electrical system then restores a normal heartbeat.
- Transvenous lead extraction
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Can I Control An Afib Attack At Home
I highly recommend that all people diagnosed with AFib discuss at-home symptom management strategies with their primary provider. During mild attacks, it is possible for a person trained in symptom reducing techniques to manage their symptoms without the need for medical intervention.
Things like regular baseline assessment, heart rate monitoring, and at-home ECG devices can be very helpful for those living with atrial fibrillation. For more information about at-home options for managing AFib, please read my article about four common ways to stop an AFib attack.
In this video I discuss four ways to stop afib attacks at home.
When Should I Call 911
Atrial fibrillation can cause serious medical complications. So, its essential to learn the warning signs and to share them with your family and friends. In many cases, we need someone else to call 911 for us. Immediately call 911 if you have the following symptoms or if you notice them in someone around you:
Signs of bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
These symptoms can happen within an hour before having a cardiac arrest. In some cases, these symptoms might not appear at all, and a person could simply faint. If you or a loved one have Afib, its a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider about how to get help in medical emergencies. For those who live alone or spend lots of time alone, there may be no one home to call for help. Medical alert devices may be a life-saving resource.
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Screening For Atrial Fibrillation
To screen for AF, your doctor may take your medical history and do some tests, such as:
- a physical exam and checking your pulse
- blood tests to rule out other causes
- taking an electrocardiogram , the main tool for diagnosing AF which measures the hearts electrical activity
- taking an echocardiogram, an ultrasound that produces moving pictures of the heart that can help show structural heart disease or blood clots in the heart.
As AF symptoms are intermittent, the use of a portable ECG device may be needed. Handheld ECGs and smartwatches with ECGs are increasingly available to consumers.
Medical devices can be worn by patients to record the electrical activity of their heart for longer periods of time, increasing the chance that the AF symptoms will be recorded. A Holter monitor can be used to record the hearts activity for 24 hours or longer, while patches can record for two weeks. An event recorder can be used to record the hearts activity over weeks to months.
While only your doctor can diagnose AF, you can keep an eye on your heart health by regularly checking your pulse.