April 13, 2017 1:36 pm
Have you ever experienced the feeling of your heart skipping a beat? Or feeling like your heart is banging against your chest wall? You’re not alone. An estimated 5 million Americans live with an irregular heart rhythm, also known as atrial fibrillation, or Afib.
What Happens During Afib?
Your heart normally contracts and relaxes to a regular heartbeat. However, Afib causes the upper chambers (atria) to beat irregularly and out of correlation with the bottom chambers (the ventricles). The irregular heartbeat can cause no symptoms, or they can cause palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue.
Can Afib Cause Long-Term Heart Damage?
Malfunctions such as Afib affect how the heart pushes oxygen-rich blood through the body. Because it impacts blood flow, there are some complications that can occur if people struggle with Afib for a long time:
- Other muscles and organs can lack oxygen-rich blood, which can result in a weakening of the heart
- Clots can form because blood isn’t moving properly through the body. Blood clots can cause strokes, and they also affect the brain.
- Heart palpitations and irregular heart rhythm can cause chest pains, especially in severe cases
Because of these possible complications, atrial fibrillation is a risk factor for stroke or heart failure, which can be fatal conditions.
Treatment Options for Atrial Fibrillation
In order to stop Afib from causing long-term damage, there are a few treatment options physicians might suggest, including:
- Rate control – This is done for people who have a fast heart rate, which is the most common symptom of Afib.
- Rhythm control – Restoring a normal heart rhythm is usually done with cardioversion, antiarrhythmic medications or ablation procedures.
- Stroke prevention – Physicians prescribe anticoagulants to reduce their patient’s risk of stroke
This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center