Champaign, Ill. (WCIA)
There is a common heart condition that can make people feel fatigued, out of breath, and even in enough pain to go straight to the hospital. This condition is called atrial fibrillation, or AFib, and it changes a person’s quality of life for the worse if left untreated. There are solutions, though, and here to talk about that is electrophysiologist, Anuj Garg, of Carle’s Heart and Vascular Institute.
To begin with the basics, what is Afib and how common is it?
• To start, everyone has a heart rhythm, which is the speed and pattern of your heartbeat. You feel that when you feel your pulse.
• An abnormal heart rhythm is called an arrhythmia. And AFib is a type of arrhythmia. It’s actually the most common type.
• People who experience it can notice the fast heartbeat itself or other symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath. Fainting and chest pain can also occur.
• About 3 million patients have AFib, and that number will increase rapidly over the next decade because of the aging population.
• About one in four people run the risk of developing AFib sometime in their lives after the age of 40. About 15 percent of patients above the age of 80 have AFib.
Why do people get AFib?
• There are many different causes, but the most common is simply aging.
• Then there are causes for AFib that are heart-related and some that are non-heart related.
• The heart-related issues that cause AFib could be things like high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, or heart valve problems.
• The non-heart related issues that cause AFib could be obesity, sleep apnea, lung disease, diabetes, or kidney problems.
• Finally, too much alcohol can cause AFib or even make it worse.
What does it look like when a person has Afib? What kind of symptoms would a person have?
• AFib means the heart is quivering and not pumping like usual, so blood can pool around the heart rather than spreading out throughout the body.
• This can cause clotting, and if one of those clots blocks an artery leading to the brain, stroke can occur.
• In fact, the American Heart Association estimates that arrhythmia causes 20 percent of strokes.
• Another consequence of AFib is that the ventricles of the heart may work overtime to pump blood effectively, and this can lead to heart failure.
• Obviously, we want to help you avoid these serious issue, and proper treatment can do just that.
Considering the serious issues associated with this heart ailment, what can you do to treat it?
• If you feel like you have an irregular pulse, you should discuss what you felt with your doctor.
• Smart watches and certain heart monitoring apps can help you track your irregular pulse too.
• In order to confirm what you felt, your doctor will probably order an electrocardiogram, called an EKG, or put you on a heart monitor.
• Once we find the AFib, treatment focuses on the cause
• The most important thing in treating Afib is the blood thinners to prevent stroke.
• Medications can be used to slow the heart’s rhythm or bring it back to normal rhythm.
• Sometimes we have to utilize procedures like Afib ablation to correct it.
• And sometimes a pacemaker is needed to treat AFib.
What should people be on the lookout for with AFib, and what can they do to prevent it?
• Overall, people need to be cognizant of their own bodies.
• Sometimes these symptoms are hard to notice, so if you’ve had any heart issues pay attention to the minor health difficulties you might experience.
• Also, if you have sleep apnea, just know that that can cause AFib, too.
• Prevention and proper treatment after diagnosis comes down to informing your doctor in a timely manner.
• With the right attention, patients can absolutely go back to their normal routines after experiencing AFib.
Managing Atrial Fibrillation or AFib
• Know the symptom and signs like a fast and irregular heartbeat,
fatigue and shortness of breath
• Realize Afib can cause heart failure and stroke
• Know the underlying issues that can cause Afib
like sleep apnea, high blood pressure,
excessive alcohol use and obesity
• Inform your physician in a timely manner