Have you ever felt an unusual fluttering or thudding feeling in your chest? Cardiologist Praveer Jain, MD, with Lehigh Valley Hospital–Pocono, who has specialized training in electrophysiology (electrical activity of the heart), shares the signs – and risks – of atrial fibrillation.
What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a type of abnormal heart rhythm. It causes the upper chambers of the heart to quiver or “fibrillate” instead of contracting normally. The disorganized signal causes the lower chambers to contract irregularly. Blood can pool, increasing the risk of blood clots that can lead to stroke.
What are AFib symptoms?
Often, people feel no symptoms. In others, symptoms may include palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, fainting or chest pain. Symptoms may come and go or be persistent.
What are the risks of AFib?
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Five times the risk of stroke compared with the general population.
Risk of congestive heart failure is three times higher.
Risk of dementia and premature death is two times higher.
How is AFib diagnosed?
Using a 12-lead electrocardiogram, AFib is diagnosed by documenting uncoordinated activity in the upper chambers of the heart. Also, check your pulse daily. Is it strong and steady, and approximately 60 to 100 beats per minute? If it is faster, slower or irregular, contact your primary care provider.
What are AFib risk factors?
High blood pressure is the most common risk factor. Other risks: aging, diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, sleep apnea, thyroid disorders, heart disease, intensive exercise such as running marathons, and family history of AFib.
How is AFib treated?
Treatment focuses on preventing stroke, controlling your heart rate and maintaining a normal rhythm with medical therapy or ablation.
Eat a heart healthy diet rich in whole grains, polyunsaturated fat, fruits and vegetables.
Regular moderate exercise – At least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly.
Weight loss – A 10 percent weight loss can result in a 50 percent reduction in AFib burden.
Sleep better – Sleep apnea should be treated.
Healthy habits – Do not drink alcohol in excess.
Manage conditions – High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and thyroid disorders should be treated per guidelines.
Concerned about AFib? Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. Call 888-402-LVHN (5846).