Sixty to 100 beats per minute, 100,000 beats per day, 35 million beats per year — to call your heart hard-working is an understatement. Under ideal circumstances, we want your heart to keep a steady rhythm through all of these heartbeats. When it doesn’t, you have what we call an arrhythmia, and atrial fibrillation is the most common, which experts predict will affect more than 12 million people in the United States by 2030.
Given the increase in this type of arrhythmia, the team here South Shore Cardiovascular Associates wants to spend a little time discussing Afib, which is the abbreviated name for atrial fibrillation.
Here’s a look at what AFib is, how to recognize the signs, and what we can do if you develop this irregular heartbeat.
The basics of AFib
Your heart features four chambers — two upper atria and two lower ventricles — and they work in concert to usher blood through your lungs for oxygen and then back out to your body.
When you have AFib, the electrical activity in the upper chambers of your heart is chaotic, so the chambers don’t work together efficiently to push blood through to your lower ventricles. As a result, blood can pool in your atria, creating a serious risk for a blood clot to develop, which can travel to your brain. In about 15-20% of strokes, AFib is the culprit.
People describe AFib in different ways, but heart palpitations are the center of most descriptions. From fluttering to flip-flopping, to pounding and skipping, AFib can make itself known in a variety of ways, especially when you’re active.
Other symptoms of AFib, which can last for a few minutes or a few days, can include:
Despite this long list, many people with mild AFib have no symptoms, and we only discover the problem when we run an electrocardiogram or some other test.
The causes of AFib
There are different reasons why AFib can develop, but the more common culprits are coronary artery disease and hypertension (high blood pressure). While heart disease is a leading risk factor, in many cases the arrhythmia develops for unknown reasons.
Living with AFib
The most important point we want to get across here is that there are solutions for controlling your AFib, so that it doesn’t lead to more serious issues, such as heart attack and stroke.
Some of these solutions include:
As important as our treatments are, the lifestyle changes you make at home are equally as important. Improving your diet, getting enough exercise, and losing weight are the top three steps you can take to treat AFib and improve your overall heart health.
If you’d like to learn more about AFib, please book an appointment online or over the phone with South Shore Cardiovascular Associates today. We have offices in Brandon, Riverview, Tampa, and Sun City Center, Florida.