Understanding and treating AFib, which can be serious
At some point in life, many adults have an abnormal heart rhythm, also called an arrhythmia. The most common type, Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), affects at least 2.7 million Americans, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
With September marking National AFib Awareness Month, it’s a critically important time to raise awareness for this lifethreatening condition. AFib is an irregular and often very fast heart rate, and left untreated, can have serious consequences.
“Experiencing AFib may be frightening, but the attack itself is not our main concern,” said cardiothoracic surgeon John Johnkoski. “The real danger is in the person’s increased risk for stroke or heart failure. Having some knowledge about the condition and how to handle it if it occurs, will be helpful to both the patient and the provider.”
The AHA suggests these important steps for anyone who thinks they may have AFib:
• Know the symptoms. The most common symptom is a quivering or fluttering heartbeat. Others may include fatigue, dizziness, sweating, weakness, faintness or confusion, shortness of breath and chest pain.
• Get the right treatment. Arrhythmias can range from harmless to life-threatening. Fortunately, they can often be successfully treated through a variety of treatment options. Following a proper diagnosis through an in-depth examination from a provider, they may suggest a treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes; medications; a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator; a catheter-based procedure called cardiac ablation; or surgery.
• Reduce risks for stroke and heart failure. Additional heart problems with AFib are possible, but not inevitable. It is important to follow the treatment plan laid out by a provider, as well as maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle to help reduce overall risks as much as possible.
The AHA suggests getting regular physical activity; eating a heart-healthy diet, low in salt, saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol; managing high blood pressure; avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine; not smoking; controling cholesterol; maintaining a healthy weight; and treating any sleep apnea.