Atrial fibrillation is also known as AFib is a condition caused due to quivering or irregular fast heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related issues.
What leads to AFib is that normally, the heart’s upper chambers (the atria) beat unevenly and irregularly, out of sync with the lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. Every heartbeat begins at the top and travels down. With AFib the heart may not pump all the blood from the atria to the ventricles leading to improper blood flow causing irregular rhythm.
What causes atrial fibrillation:
A-fib can occur at any age, but it is more common among the elderly. Some of the possible causes of atrial fibrillation are coronary artery disease, heart attack, lung diseases, heart valve problems, sleep apnea, physical stress due to surgery, pneumonia, or other illnesses, obesity, heavy alcohol consumption, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, etc.
Few people with atrial fibrillation (A-fib) do not notice any symptoms. But some may experience signs and symptoms such as:
- Palpitations in the chest area
- Dizzy or light headedness
- Chest pain or pressure.
- Short of breath etc.
Following a physical assessment, certain tests are performed to confirm an A-fib diagnosis. The tests include:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): The electrical activity of the heart is measured with this quick and painless examination. Sticky patches (electrodes) are applied to the chest, and even to the arms and legs at times. Wires connect the electrodes to a computer, which presents the test findings. An ECG reveals whether the heart is beating too rapidly or too slowly. An ECG majorly assists in diagnosing atrial fibrillation.
Blood tests: This test helps in identifying the potential causes leading to AFib like hyperthyroidism, blood clots, kidney related issues, anemia, liver problems etc.
Holter monitor: It’s similar to a mobile EKG that continuously records data from the heart. It assists doctor to detect arrhythmias, hence it’s advised to wear the device for a few days even while doing normal activities. If the AFib symptoms appear and disappear a different type of monitor will be suggested to wear for a longer period.
Echocardiogram- to detect underlying heart problems responsible for Afib like- mitral stenosis, aortic valve disease, Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, other valvular abnormalities.
A-fib is a dangerous condition, but numerous tests can confirm the diagnosis and assist in determining the cause and associated complications. Once A-fib has been recognised by a specialist, medications can help fix it.
Treatment for atrial fibrillation is determined by how long you’ve had the condition, your symptoms, and the underlying reason of the irregular heartbeat. Doctors personalise A-fib therapy so that they are appropriate for the person’s age and lifestyle, heart health, and overall health. Some patients may only require drugs to maintain their cardiac rhythm, while others may require cardioversion or electrophysiology studies along with Radiofrequency ablation. Doctors may propose a combination of treatments at times.
A healthy lifestyle can lower the risk of heart disease and potentially avoid atrial fibrillation. The primary lifestyle modifications required are, not smoking, eating a heart-diet rich in plant-based foods, fruits, and vegetables, and low in saturated fats, maintain a healthy weight and engage in regular exercise, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight .