What Is Atrial Fibrillation?

Your heart may skip a beat when you see the one you love. But if it skips on many other occasions, you may have atrial fibrillation. National Atrial Fibrillation Month is this September, but many people do no not know what atrial fibrillation is. The more familiar term is arrhythmia of the heart, an abnormal heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation is the most common type.

During normal heart operation, blood flows from the upper heart chambers (called the atria) at a steady rhythm into the lower chambers (called ventricles). When atrial fibrillation is present, this rhythm is upset, disrupted, slowed down, or sped up. Your risk for heart attack and stroke is increased because of blood clots resulting from atrial fibrillation.

Causes
There are many possible causes for atrial fibrillation, and some are not yet known. Older people have a higher risk for atrial fibrillation. Conditions such as a hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes will increase your risk. If the heart’s electrical system is directly damaged or you have inflammation in the area, you may develop atrial fibrillation.

Symptoms
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation should not be taken lightly. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should see a doctor.

  • Fast or unusual heartbeat
  • Fatigue or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing

Diagnosis
Diagnosis of atrial fibrillation is simple, non-invasive, and painless. Your doctor can give you an electrocardiogram known as an EKG. This test will measure the electrical system in your heart to find irregularities.

Treatment
Your doctor may suggest a variety of treatments if you have atrial fibrillation. Lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure and control your weight may be helpful. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains can be a good start. Exercising for 30 minutes 5 times a week is heart healthy. There are prescription medications available to regulate your heart rhythms. Blood thinners may be prescribed to reduce the risk of blood clots. Surgery is another possibility if other measures are not able to treat the atrial fibrillation.

The Heart and Vascular Center at Medical Center Arlington has the latest treatment options to remedy your arrhythmia condition. If you have any symptoms of atrial fibrillation, please schedule an appointment with a doctor today.

Sources:
Atrial Fibrillation Fact Sheet
What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?

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5 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease
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