Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation (also called A Fib or AF) is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. The abnormal firing of electrical impulses in the heart case the upper chambers of the heart (Atria) to quiver (or fibrillate). This can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart related complications. At least 2.7 million Americans are living with Atrial Fibrillation.

Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. Cells in your heart make electric signals that cause your heart to contract and pump blood. Atrial Fibrillation  causes the upper chambers of your heart to beat irregularly and too fast, they quiver like a bowl of gelatin.

Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation can include: rapid and irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations, dizziness, sweating, chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath or anxiety, tiring more easily and/or fainting.

Possible risk factors for Atrial Fibrillation are:

  • Prior Heart Attack or Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Excessive Alcohol
  • Smoking

Types of Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation

There are several different treatments used to manage atrial fibrillation. Your doctor will know which one best fits your type of Atrial Fibrillation and your underlying conditions. These can include:

  • Beta blockers or antiarrhythmics to help our heart rate return to a normal rhythm.
  • Digitalis, calcium channel blockers or amiodarone to help slow your heart rate.
  • Blood thinners to help keep blood clots from forming and lower your risk for stroke.
  • Electric cardioversion (electric shock) performed by a Cardiologist in a medical setting to change your heart beat back to normal. AND/OR
  • Surgery, a pacemaker or other procedures.

Your treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your Atrial Fibrillation and your level of disability. If you have questions about atrial fibrillation, always check with your physician first. They know you best.

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Resource: American Heart Association and American Stroke Association