Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular heartbeat that puts the patient at higher risk for stroke, heart failure and other cardiac conditions.
When a heart is in AFib, the upper chambers of the heart are not beating in synch with the lower chambers, possibly causing weakness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
AFib is not generally life-threatening but, left untreated, will put the patient at higher risk for potentially lethal blood clots. AFib episodes may come and go but it may also not go away and may require treatment on an emergency basis.
One of the biggest issues with AFib is the possibility of developing blood clots as a result of the irregular heart rhythm. The clots can travel from the heart to other organs, blocking the flow of blood.
AFib might be treated with medications or other types of intervention to correct the electrical impulses coming from the heart.
Symptoms of AFib
It is possible to have AFib and be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Others can have it and be bedridden during an episode. Some of the symptoms you may feel if you have AFib:
- irregular heartbeat that may feel like it’s racing or flip-flopping in your chest
- fatigue with exercise or inability to exercise
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- dizziness or light-headedness
- general fatigue
Sometimes AFib goes unnoticed until its discovered at a medical check-up but in other people the symptoms are profound.
Causes of AFib
- heart attack
- high blood pressure
- coronary artery disease (CAD)
- abnormalities within the heart structure
- overactive thyroid or metabolic issues
- stimulant overuse like tobacco, caffeine, alcohol and medications
- prior heart surgery
- sleep apnea
- lung issues
While these problems may cause AFib, there are people who have none of these issues and still develop AFib. It’s not clear why people develop this condition, called lone atrial fibrillation, and the dangers are also not clear.
There a some risk factors that can be managed through lifestyle and nutritional changes and others that cannot be changed:
- heart disease of any type
- chronic conditions
- family history
- alcohol consumption
- high blood pressure
You may not be able to completely eliminate your risk for AFib but you can certainly do your best to prevent its development.
- exercise regularly
- heart healthy diet
- don’t smoke
- maintain healthy weight
- limit/avoid caffeine and alcohol
- minimize use of over the counter meds for colds that contain stimulants
- manage stress, especially extreme anger
AFib increase your risk for stroke and heart failure but you can take steps to minimize your risk to the best of your ability through lifestyle and nutrition management.
If you need help in this area, feel free to reach out to me.
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