Atrial Fibrillation

DO YOU HAVE ATRIAL FIBRILLATION?

Atrial fibrillation is the most common abnormal heart rhythm that we see. It is characterized by an irregular heart beat. Your heart has a very sophisticated electrical system and when you develop atrial fibrillation, it basically means there is glitch in that system.

Your heart has 4 chambers and there is an electrical system connecting the chambers and making them beat. You are born with a pacermaker that sits in the upper chamber and makes it squeeze and that signal goes to the lower chambers and makes them squeeze. These signals going in the correct fashion makes everything in the heart beat in a synchronous fashion. When you develop atrial fibrillation, this synchrony is lost and what happens is the upper chamber is sending a lot of extra signals to the lower chamber and its making it beat a lot faster and irregular.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation includes palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of the legs, heart failure, stroke and many more. Although atrial fibrillation is not fatal, it does need to be treated. The reasons to treat atrial fibrillation is because your heart rate should not be remain that fast all the time. This could eventually lead to heart failure. Some people never can tell they are in atrial fibrillation and it can be picked up by accident on physical exam. Another big problem with atrial fibrillation is strokes. When your heart is beating irregularity and not squeezing correctly, it allows blood to get stagnant in that chamber. When blood sits and doesn’t move, it can easily clot. These clots can go to the brain and cause strokes or even “mini” strokes. These events can be life changing for people and some may have long term consequences.

The treatment for atrial fibrillation first invovles controlling the heart rate. This can be done with medicines and or require an electric shock to the heart to reset things to a normal rhythm. The other part of the treatment is placing people on blood thinners to prevent strokes. These blood thinners could be as simple as aspirin, or involve more potent blood thinners such as warfarin or new products like xarelto, pradaxa or eliquis. The difference between the blood thinners is warfarin requires lab monitoring and also has dietary restrictions. The other blood thinners do not require any lab work and have no dietary restrictions. When compared to warfarin they are more effective as well in stroke reduction in the setting of atrial fibrillation.

Just remember that atrial fibrillation is very common and it is not deadly. The treatment is important to prevent complications from it. If you have atrial fibrillation and want our advice on anything related to your treatment, please do not hesitate to call us at anytime.

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