Everyone has occasional palpitations from time to time, and in most cases, the feeling is fleeting (even if it does make you a little nervous). But if you have atrial fibrillation or Afib, your abnormal heart rhythm is much more serious, increasing the risks of stroke, heart failure, and other life-threatening issues.
The most common type of heart rhythm problem (or arrhythmia), AFib affects about 6 million Americans and causes nearly a half million hospitalizations every year. Fortunately, AFib can be managed, but it’s important to get treatment as soon as you notice the signs and symptoms to avoid serious consequences.
A leading cardiology practice in Glendale, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Anthem, Avondale, Laveen Village, and Black Canyon City, Arizona, Phoenix Heart, PLLC, offers cutting-edge treatment for patients with AFib to help them manage their heart rhythm and maintain their health. In this post, our team explains why AFib happens as well as its symptoms and treatment.
Why AFib happens
In a normal heartbeat, the upper chambers of the heart (called the atria) pump blood into the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) in a predictable way (the heart rhythm). After filling the ventricles, valves close to prevent the blood from flowing backward.
Now, it’s the ventricles’ turn to pump blood away from the heart. When the ventricles empty, valves close to prevent backflow here, too. A tiny electrical signal helps coordinate these activities to control the flow of blood.
Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia that happens when the electrical signal is interrupted, causing the atria and ventricles to be out of sync with each other. Disrupting the normal flow of blood through the heart causes an array of symptoms and dramatically increases the risk of blood clots.
Signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation
A fluttering or quivering heartbeat is AFib’s most common symptom, but there are other symptoms you should know about, too:
- Feeling dizzy
- Feeling fatigued
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling faint or lightheaded
- Rapid, irregular, or “thumping” heartbeat
- Reduced capacity to exercise
Of course, it’s also possible to have atrial fibrillation without any noticeable symptoms. That’s why it’s also important to know the risk factors associated with AFib, including:
- Personal history of high blood pressure
- Personal history of heart disease
- Thyroid disease
- Habitual alcohol consumption
- Family history of AFib
The risk of AFib also increases as you get older.
Once AFib is diagnosed, we’ll work with you to determine the best treatment to keep you healthy. Your AFib treatment depends on the type and severity of your symptoms. In some cases, we may decide to monitor your AFib, at least initially.
In other cases, we may prescribe treatment that could include:
- Blood-thinner medicines
- Medicines to control your heart rate
- Cardioversion to restore the heart’s normal rhythm
- Minimally invasive catheter ablation to fix faulty electrical pathways
- Pacemaker to regulate the way your heart beats
Regular cardiac evaluations ensure your treatment stays on track to manage your symptoms and prevent complications.
Don’t ignore your symptoms
If you’re having symptoms of AFib, scheduling an evaluation is very important to avoid potentially life-threatening problems. But even if you don’t have symptoms, regular cardiac checkups are still important to help identify asymptomatic AFib before it leads to complications.
To learn more about AFib treatment or to be evaluated for atrial fibrillation, request an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Phoenix Heart today.