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Are You at Risk for AFib?

Do you tire out quickly while walking? It is difficult for you to go up stairs without taking a break? Does your heart sometimes race or flutter? This could be a sign that you have atrial fibrillation.

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib for short) is a little known electrical problem of the heart that isn’t easy to pronounce. But the racing and fluttering in the heart that are its symptoms can be warning signs of heart failure, or of a pending heart attack or stroke.

Beebe Healthcare joins the Heart Rhythm Society and the National Stroke Association in encouraging community members to pay attention to their heartbeat, to how they feel, and to learn about the most common type of irregular heartbeat.

AFib occurs when the heart’s normal electrical signals that make it pump don’t work the way they should. They make the heart ‘fibrillate,’ and consequently the blood does not circulate efficiently throughout our bodies. This can lead to the formation of dangerous blood clots in the arteries.

The cause of AFib is most commonly due to structural damage or abnormalities in the heart.

Symptoms of AFib include:

  • Though a rapid heartbeat is an important symptom, often the patient does not feel the irregular beat.
  • Dizziness or even fainting
  • Tiredness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion

It’s important to note that AFib may not cause any symptoms at all. The irregular heartbeat or fluttering may not be noticeable. Regular visits to your primary care doctor can help to identify any signs or symptoms early. If needed, your PCP will refer you to a cardiologist for diagnostic testing. 

Need a primary care doctor? Beebe’s primary care practices are accepting new patients.

Today, there are millions of people in the United States with AFib, and the number is growing, according to the National Institutes of Health. While the risk increases as we age, more than half of the people in the United States with AFib are younger than 75 years of age.

Risk Factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease and/or diabetes
  • Structural defects of the heart such as mitral valve prolapse
  • Lung disease
  • Obesity
  • Family history of AFib
  • Life style behaviors such as consumption of alcohol, caffeine, smoking, and stress

There are many treatments available for AFib, starting with several different medications used to restore and maintain the heartbeat.

Cardiologists also encourage patients to control stress, to exercise and to improve their diet. If lifestyle modification and medication does not alleviate the irregularity, cardiac electrophysiologists (cardiologists who specialize in disorders and diseases of the heart’s electrical system) and interventional cardiologists can perform procedures to destroy diseased tissue in the heart that cause the AFib. These procedures include catheter ablations (cryoballoon and radiofrequency).

Patients with any type of AFib are at a greater risk of stroke due to clotting, so treatment also aims to reduce stroke risk. This is often done with medications called oral anticoagulants (blood thinners).

Beebe’s cardiovascular team also performs the WATCHMAN™ procedure, a minimally invasive procedure for patients with non-valvular AFib who need an alternative treatment to blood thinners. The device closes off the left atrial appendage, where most clots occur in AFib patients. This is an excellent option for those with other illnesses and health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or liver failure.

It is important that people, especially as they get older, pay attention to their heartbeats, and to how they feel. Luckily, Beebe utilizes many treatment options for AFib, as well as for other heart rhythm disorders and diseases. With treatment and lifestyle modification, many people can recover and once again enjoy quality of life.”

Connect with a Member of Our Cardiology Team for More Information