Posted on August 12, 2022
Atrial Fibrillation, or AFib, is a heart condition that continues to ravage the world. The CDC estimates that over 12 million people will suffer from it by 2030, while it was directly and indirectly linked to over 183, 321 fatalities in 2019. With AFib cases spiraling fast, it’s important that we begin to take action before we have a fully-fledged disaster on our hands. As an experienced cardiac monitoring services provider, we had our expert cardiologists put together this article that will answer all your questions about Atrial Fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation falls under heart problems we call arrhythmias. Arrhythmia refers to any irregular heartbeat or rhythm, such as your heart beating too fast or too slow, among other abnormalities.
In the specific case of Atrial Fibrillation, your heart rhythm is out of sorts and beats quite fast. Normally, your heartbeat can be in the region of 60 to 100 depending on physical activity, among other factors. But when you have atrial fibrillation, your beats per minute (BPM) can jump to over 100 and sometimes even reach 175.
To best explain how atrial fibrillation occurs, it’s important to understand how the heart works. This vital organ has four chambers that are generally responsible for blood flow, as follows:
1. Right atrium
2. Left atrium
3. Right ventricle
4. Left ventricle
The left and right atrium make up the two upper chambers in the heart, with the other two making up the lower chambers. All of them work to coordinate the pumping action and help to circulate blood to the lungs for oxygen before it pumps the nutrient-rich blood to other vital organs.
When you have Afib, your upper chambers are totally out of sync with the lower section due to disorganized signals. Your right and left atrium beat irregularly and chaotically, and your ventricles are unable to keep up.
Atrial fibrillation can vary in severity and risk depending on the exact type you have, with categories generally breaking down as follows:
1. Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: Here the condition occurs intermittently with episodes and symptoms lasting anywhere from just a couple of minutes to a matter of hours.
2. Persistent: Your heart doesn’t revert to a regular rhythm on its own, rather the normalcy is aided by various treatment options
3. Long-standing persistent: If the Afib lasts more than one year, the patient is said to have long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation
4. Permanent: This category refers to Afibs that are beyond restoration, and the only solution is managed through medication
With atrial fibrillation comes many dangers, the top two of which include stroke and heart failure. Afib is directly responsible for 25% of stroke cases in patients aged 80 years and above, while this heart arrhythmia can increase your stroke risk by up to 600%, according to findings by the NINDS.
Due to abnormal contractions, blood can flow quite slower than usual and thus collect in pools to create blood clots. When this clot finds its way to the brain and clogs cerebral blood vessels, it causes a stroke.
In the worst-case scenario, Afib can eventually pave the way for heart failure. Your heart beats really fast, but with less strength and hence pumps less blood. Over time, this irregular rhythm damages your heart’s muscles leading to failure and increasing the risks of a heart attack.
Afib is treated and managed in a variety of ways as follows:
1. Through antiarrhythmic: The effects of atrial fibrillation may be counteracted by antiarrhythmics. These basically work to alter your heartbeat and get your rhythm back to normalcy. The exact type of drugs will depend on your Afib categorization, underlying illnesses, and the responsiveness of your condition to mediation. Typically, Afib patients combine several anti-arrhythmic medicines and anticoagulants, the latter helping to remedy blood clots.
2. Cardioversion: Cardiologists may also recommend cardioversion, which basically involves the use of regulated electric shock to get back your upper chambers into normal sync with the rest of your heart. To reduce the possibility of a stroke, your physician may recommend anticoagulants in the month prior to and after the procedure.
3. Catheter ablation: When medication proves futile, catheter ablation may be the way to go. It involves the strategic destruction of the heart tissues causing the abnormality
4. Pacemaker: This implantable cardiac device can give your heart a helping hand it needs to get back to normal, and it’s fitted via minor surgery as a last resort
Your doctor may need to continue collecting ECG data by using a portable ECG machine for home use while you recover and go about your day so you may be signed up for a remote patient monitoring program such as ours to monitor your post-discharge progress.
Atrial fibrillation can be incurable but the great news is that there’s much you can do to prevent the condition. Some of these include:
1. Ditch the caffeine. Do you drink tea and coffee a little too much? It may be time to cut down and the same goes for alcohol and energy drinks.
2. Rely on a wearable biosensor: In conjunction with the green light from your doctor, you can get remote heart health monitoring services that help detect the early onset of atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias. If you need a discrete biosensor that doesn’t get in the way of your day-to-day, call us today.
3. Include more potassium-rich foods on your menus like peanut butter, avocado, and bananas. Generally, prioritize a heart-healthy diet.
4. Exercise more to lose weight, improve your mood, and strengthen your heart.
5. Drink more water. Hydration is key to keeping Afib at bay and we recommend at least 11.5 cups a day.
Arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation can be symptomatic, causing red flags in the way of headaches, light-headedness, fatigue, and chest pains among others. However, in some cases, the arrhythmia can be without symptoms, which makes it particularly dangerous. The best way to know is to get a professional arrhythmia diagnostic analysis, and Cardiac Rhythm is here to help you out. For offer event recording, Holter monitoring, echocardiogram, and electrocardiogram reporting services, all of which help pick out heart problems that are detectable at first glance. We also have a range of cardiac arrhythmia monitoring devices that enable you to better take charge of your heart health. Call us now to learn more.