Atrial fibrillation (AFib) – may not be something people hear about every day, but it is a relatively common heart condition among millions of Americans. It is a form of arrhythmia (a heart rhythm abnormality) in which the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) are flooded with chaotic electrical impulses, causing them to be out of sync with the two lower chambers (ventricles).
The term “fibrillation” is ascribed to the rapid firing of electrical impulses from many areas in the atria that makes the heart beat very fast and quiver or fibrillate.
If you’re concerned about AFib, it helps to discuss it with your doctor. Here are 10 common questions associated with atrial fibrillation.
Q: What Are the Symptoms of AFib?
Sometimes, AFib may not produce any symptoms, but if it does, it can manifest as:
- Palpitations (sensations that your heart is racing, fluttering, or pounding)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Fatigue or tiredness
Q: What Causes AFib?
AFib has various potential causes, but it is commonly due to problems with the heart’s structure. Other causes can include coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart valve problems, congenital defects, infection, and lung diseases. Sometimes, it can develop without any obvious cause.
Q: What Are the Risk Factors for AFib?
The following circumstances and health conditions can increase your risk of developing AFib:
- Advancing age
- Chronic medical problems (e.g., hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, etc.)
- Family history
- Thyroid problems
Q: How Is AFib Diagnosed?
AFib is usually detected during a physical exam. In such a case, your primary care physician will likely refer you to a cardiologist (heart specialist), who will carry out a number of tests to confirm a diagnosis.
Your cardiologist will likely order some of the following tests:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Blood tests
- Chest X-ray
- Holter monitor
- Event recorder
- Stress test
Q: What Are the Complications Associated with AFib?
The condition can cause blood to collect in the atria and develop into blood clots. If a blood clot in the left upper atrium then breaks free from the heart, it can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.
The risk of stroke associated with AFib increases with age, and it can further increase if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart failure.
Q: What Treatment Options Are Available for AFib?
Treatment can vary depending on the underlying cause of the condition, symptoms, and how long you have had AFib. Treatment aims to reset the heart rhythm, control heart rate, and prevent complications such as a blood clot and stroke.
The following are the conservative treatment options available for AFib:
- Cardioversion therapy (drug and electrical cardioversion)
Q: Can I Prevent AFib?
While not all cases of AFib can be prevented, there are things you can do, such as the ones mentioned below, that can help lower your risk.
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Giving up smoking
- Having regular check-ups and physicals with your doctor
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Managing stress effectively
Q: Can You Still Live Long with AFib?
As long as your risk of stroke is reduced, AFib has a very good prognosis. In cases of persistent, long-standing, or permanent AFib, you can still go on to lead a long, active life if the condition is managed properly.
Your cardiologist can recommend dietary and lifestyle strategies—along with your treatment plan—to lower your risk of developing life-threatening complications.
Q: Am I Still Able to Exercise with AFib?
You may engage in moderate physical activity, which is safe and effective for your condition.
First-Rate Cardiology Services in Sarasota and Bradenton, FL
At Intercoastal Medical Group, we have highly qualified cardiologists on staff who are committed to not only delivering exceptional treatment outcomes but also to providing our patients with useful information to guide them along the path to optimal cardiovascular health.
What’s more, we offer on-site diagnostic services, including echocardiogram, stress testing, and vascular ultrasound, so you never have to go elsewhere for your care.
To see one of our cardiologists, call us at our office near you, or fill out this appointment request form. Our cardiologists see patients at our Beneva Cardiology office (941-366-1888) and Cattleridge Medical Building (941-379-1850) in Sarasota; and our Lakewood Ranch II office (941-538-0088) in Bradenton.