Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a common health condition that is associated with many risks that can be life-altering.
There are several causes and effects of AFib, and luckily, there are also a number of ways to prevent and treat it. To understand how to manage this condition, one must understand exactly what it is and what a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation means for an individual.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation, commonly referred to as AFib, is an irregular or sometimes rapid heartbeat that is a risk factor for several health issues relating to the heart. AFib can increase an individual’s risk of stroke, heart failure, blood clots, and other complications. An individual may experience symptoms such as weakness and shortness of breath during rest, lightheadedness, and dizziness. A rather scary symptom of AFib is a heart palpitation, which is an uncomfortable racing heartbeat. The normal range for a heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute, but during atrial fibrillation, the heart rate can range from 100-175 beats per minute.
What Causes AFib?
The human heart is comprised of two upper chambers, known as the atria, and two lower chambers, or the ventricles. In a healthy heart, a group of cells serve as the body’s natural pacemaker that coordinates the chambers in a rhythm and cues the heart to beat, sending blood between the heart and the body. When an episode of atrial fibrillation occurs, the upper and lower chambers of the heart are not coordinated, and the signals become chaotic. This can be caused by a number of factors, including but not limited to high blood pressure, a previous heart attack, lung disease, and even sleep apnea. Other risk factors that increase the chance of developing AFib include old age, obesity, and family history.
How to Prevent and Treat AFib
Atrial fibrillation may come and go in episodes, or it may be persistent and require professional treatment. Although a potentially daunting diagnosis, AFib is quite common and there are plenty of prevention and treatment options available. It is important to develop habits that sustain a heart-healthy lifestyle. Health experts recommend avoiding fast food, sugary baked goods, alcohol, and caffeine. Heart-healthy foods that should be incorporated in one’s diet include fish, avocado, and high-fiber foods like oats, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress can help prevent and manage AFib as well.
If you are experiencing symptoms of atrial fibrillation, be sure to contact your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
BTC of New Bedford is currently seeking healthy senior volunteers (without atrial fibrillation) to participate in a single-visit clinical study to test an investigational atrial fibrillation monitoring device. Learn more today to see if you are eligible to participate and contribute to the advancement of clinical research!