When it comes to any condition there are always a lot of questions. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Atrial Fibrillation, the most common heart condition.
Atrial fibrillation, or AF, is an irregular heartbeat, a condition in which the atria fail to contract in a strong, rhythmic way. When a heart is in AF, it may not be pumping enough oxygen-rich blood out to the body.
Some of the most common symptoms of AF include a racing heart, fluttering or palpitations, shortness of breath and lightheadedness. In some patients however, there are no noticeable symptoms at all which makes recognising your condition more difficult. People with no symptoms may be diagnosed by an exam and an ECG.
When the heart is in AF, blood can become static and may be left pooling inside one of the upper chambers called the left atrium. When blood pools in the heart, a clot can form, which can travel to the brain, block an artery in the brain, and cause a stroke. Blocked arteries prevent the tissue from getting oxygen-rich blood, and without oxygen the tissue dies.
The greatest risk of AF is stroke. People with AF are 5 times more likely to have a stroke than someone who doesn’t have atrial fibrillation (although individual risks vary considerably). There is also have a risk of developing heart failure due to the weakening of the heart muscle in a small number of people.
Many people don’t know how they developed AF, but it is most often caused by a combination of factors.
Yes! Do not stop taking medication simply because you are not experiencing noticeable symptoms. Most people with AF should be on anticoagulant medications which lower stroke risks when taken correctly.
As soon as you notice the symptoms of AF, contact your physician. Even if your symptoms go away, it’s still important to have a physical exam and monitor your heart’s activity.
In most cases, medical intervention may be needed to restore the heart’s normal rate and rhythm, and most AF patients need medication to lower stroke risk. AF Interventions may involve electrical cardioversion, “blood thinners,” medications for rate and/or rhythm control, and possibly catheter ablation if other treatments fail to prevent symptoms. Let your doctor know if you are having symptoms, and continue following your doctor’s advice until otherwise directed.
For more information about Atrial Fibrillation and to get answers to your questions, take a look at the Atrial Fibrillation page. If you need to speak to a specialist about AF then get in touch with Dr Segal here on the website or over on his dedicated Doctify page!