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    Atrial fibrillation

    • Overview

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      A-fib, or atrial fibrillation, is an irregular and frequently very rapid heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that can cause blood clots. A-fib makes stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related issues more likely. The atria, located above the ventricles and beat chaotically and irregularly during atrial fibrillation, are out of time with one another. A-fib may not show any symptoms in many people. However, A-fib may result in palpitations, a quick, pounding heartbeat, shortness of breath, or weakness. Atrial fibrillation episodes can be intermittent or recurrent. Although A-fib doesn’t pose a life-threatening hazard, it is a severe medical issue that needs to be treated appropriately to avoid a stroke. Medication, therapy to correct the heart rhythm, and catheter operations to obstruct incorrect heart signals are all possible forms of treatment for atrial fibrillation. A person with atrial fibrillation may also experience atrial flutter, a heart rhythm issue. Despite being a distinct arrhythmia, atrial flutter can be treated like atrial fibrillation.

    • Symptoms

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      Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) might cause some persons to experience no symptoms. Those who do experience the signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation may experience:
      Sensations of a fast, fluttering or pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
      Chest pain
      Dizziness
      Fatigue
      Lightheadedness
      Reduced ability to exercise
      Shortness of breath
      Weakness

      Atrial fibrillation may be:
      Occasional (paroxysmal atrial fibrillation). The typical duration of afib symptoms ranges from a few minutes to many hours. Symptoms may last a week, and episodes can often recur. Some people require medical care.
      Persistent. When atrial fibrillation occurs this way, the heart rhythm does not return to normal. Cardioversion or pharmacological treatment may be performed to restore and maintain a normal heart rhythm if a person develops A-fib symptoms.
      Long-standing persistent. This particular form of atrial fibrillation is constant, lasting for more than 12 months and cannot be restored to a regular heart rhythm. The use of medications is necessary to regulate the heart rate and prevent the formation of blood clots.

    • When to see a doctor

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      It is recommended to see a doctor if you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of atrial fibrillation. Additionally, if you are experiencing chest pain, it is essential to seek immediate medical assistance as it could indicate a heart attack.

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    • Causes

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      Knowing how the heart usually beats is helpful if you want to understand the causes of A-fib. A typical heart has four chambers – two upper and two lower (ventricles). The sinus node acts as the heart’s natural pacemaker, producing a signal that initiates each heartbeat.

      In a regular heart rhythm:
      The signal travels from the sinus node to the two upper heart chambers (atria).
      It passes through a pathway between the upper and lower chambers known as the atrioventricular (AV) node.
      The signal’s movement causes your heart to squeeze (contract), pushing blood to your heart and body.

      When someone has atrial fibrillation, the signals in their heart’s upper chambers become chaotic, which leads to a fast and irregular heart rhythm. The heart rate during atrial fibrillation can be anywhere from 100 to 175 beats per minute, which is higher than the normal range of 60 to 100 beats per minute.

      Causes of atrial fibrillation
      Atrial fibrillation, commonly referred to as AFib, is primarily caused by underlying structural issues with the heart. These structural issues can be traced back to several different factors, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, congenital heart defects, heart valve problems, high blood pressure, lung diseases, physical stress from surgery or illnesses, previous heart surgery, sick sinus syndrome, sleep apnea, thyroid diseases, stimulant use (such as certain medications, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol), and viral infections. However, it is essential to note that some individuals may develop AFib without any known heart problems or damage. This can be particularly concerning as it can be more challenging to identify and treat the condition’s root cause.

    • Risk factors

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      The following factors can raise your risk of developing atrial fibrillation (A-fib):
      Age. The likelihood of having atrial fibrillation increases with age.
      Heart illness. Atrial fibrillation is more likely to occur in people with heart illnesses, such as heart valve issues, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, or a history of heart attacks or heart surgery.
      Blood pressure. High blood pressure can raise the risk of atrial fibrillation if it is not well controlled by lifestyle modifications or medications.
      Thyroid condition. Thyroid issues can sometimes lead to heart rhythm issues (arrhythmias), including atrial fibrillation.
      Other persistent medical issues. Atrial fibrillation risk is higher in people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, chronic renal disease, lung disease, or sleep apnea.
      Drinking. Alcohol use can cause atrial fibrillation in some persons. The risk is substantially increased by binge drinking.
      Obesity. Obese people are more likely to experience atrial fibrillation.
      Family background. In some families, the risk of atrial fibrillation is enhanced.

    • Prevention

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      Healthy lifestyle choices can lower heart disease risk and potentially prevent atrial fibrillation. It’s essential to follow these critical tips to maintain a healthy heart.
      Consume a nourishing diet.
      Engage in regular physical activity and maintain a healthy weight
      Abstain from smoking
      Limit or avoid alcohol and caffeine consumption
      Handle stress levels effectively since extreme stress and anger can lead to heart rhythm issues.

    • *Please note that the information provided in the article is for reference purposes only. It is essential to consult a doctor before applying any of the suggestions mentioned.

    Content Details

    Medical info from Mayo Clinic, for reference only. Visit Hoan My for better advice.

    Last updated on: 07/08/2023