Atrial Fibrillation

HIPPO

Your heart skips a beat, or perhaps it beats faster. There’s a fluttering in your chest. Your breath comes faster. Your knees feel weak. Is it love?

Alas, no. Put away your poetry books: these are all symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation, otherwise known as AF or AFib.

Essentially what happens with AFib is your heart’s upper chambers (the Atria) beat out of coordination with its lower chambers (the Ventricles). This means your heart isn’t working effectively and can cause complications such as stroke or heart failure. Often, your heart is also working extra hard and beating very rapidly.

A healthy heart will beat 65-100 beats per minute: http://watchlearnlive.heart.org/CVML_Player.php?moduleSelect=atrfib

With AFib, your heartbeat can accelerate to 100-175 beats per minute. http://watchlearnlive.heart.org/CVML_Player.php?moduleSelect=atrfib

Atrial fibrillation is diagnosed with tests and monitoring, including the use of a Holter monitor, ECGs (Electocardiograms), blood tests, and chest X-Rays.

AFib can be caused by several factors, the most common being an abnormality of the heart or damage to the heart’s structure. Other possible causes include high blood pressure, heart surgery, stress, stimulants like coffee or certain medications, sleep apnea or congenital heart defects.

Those with increased risk factors for developing AFib include people who have:

-Heart disease

-High blood pressure

-Binge drinking of alcohol

-Family history of AFib

-Other chronic conditions, such as sleep apnea or thyroid problems

AFib is generally treated with the goal to bring your heart back to a normal rhythm. Your doctor will determine the best course for you, and will help you decide to try resetting your rhythm to normal with drugs, electric shocks or surgery. It’s also common to be placed on an anti-arrhythmic medication to help maintain a normal heartbeat. Your doctor may also ask you to make lifestyle changes to help prevent future episodes of Atrial Fibrillation, such as lowering your blood pressure, increasing physical activity and avoiding or eliminating stimulants from your diet. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions until you understand the best course for your health.

Want to know more? These sources contain great info:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/atrial-fibrillation/DS00291

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhy

thmia/AboutArrhythmia/Atrial-Fibrillation-AF-or-AFib_UCM_302027_Article.jsp

http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/LifeAfterStroke/HealthyLiving...

Heart.org/AFib

Photo credit: Patrick J. Lynch / Foter / CC BY;

Photo credit: HamburgerJung / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit:http://watchlearnlive.heart.org/CVML_Player.php?moduleSelect=atrfib

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