Atrial Fibrillation is an irregular heart beat that is usually very fast. A person’s risk for atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) tends to increase as he or she gets older. In fact, over 13% of all Americans over the age of 70 have been diagnosed with A-Fib. Since life expectancies for Americans are on the rise, so too is the number of people with A-Fib. Hospitalizations due to atrial fibrillation in the US have also increased greatly in recent years. They are now 2 to 3 times what they were 20 years ago.
The heart has 4 compartments called chambers. The top 2 compartments are called atria. The bottom 2 chambers are called the ventricles. During atrial fibrillation, the atria stop beating regularly. Instead they tremble in a disorganized way. This can cause an irregular and very fast heart beat.
A-Fib is most common in people older than 60 years of age; however, it can appear at any age. Sometimes atrial fibrillation has no cause, yet the risks increase with the following conditions:
- Heart disease due to high cholesterol
- Larger heart size caused by high blood pressure
- Damage to the heart valve
- Overactive thyroid gland
- Heavy alcohol intake
- Use of certain medications
The most common symptom of atrial fibrillation is feeling your heart beat rapidly, for no reason. This is known as heart palpitations. Other symptoms include irregular pulse, feeling tired, shortness of breath and chest pain. Other times atrial fibrillation may have no symptoms. Atrial fibrillation can also cause blood clots to form in the heart. This blood clot can travel to the brain and lead to stroke.
The treatment for atrial fibrillation depends on the severity of symptoms and the patient’s past medical history. That is, it depends on how the person is feeling and if they have a history of stroke or high blood pressure. Your doctor will make this evaluation and establish a unique treatment plan that is appropriate for you.
Treating the cause of atrial fibrillation will often return the heart to a normal state. Those who are taking blood thinning medicine will probably need regular blood tests, as well.
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms of A-Fib, make an appointment to discuss this with me today – 757-488-3333.
~Keeping you well! Dr. Abdelshaheed