National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month
For many Americans, Atrial Fibrillation or AFib is an unknown health condition that affects millions of Americans. Unfortunately many Americans are unaware of this serious health condition that is responsible for nearly 350,000 hospitalizations a year. Today, over 5 million people in America live with AFib, and it is estimated by the year 2030 at least 17 million will suffer from AFib. In addition, according to experts, those above the age of 40, have a one in four chance of contracting this health condition in their lifetime.
The good news is that it is possible to prevent AFib strokes by just spreading the word about the condition and creating awareness. When awareness spreads, it enhances communication between patients and doctors, who can help those living with AFib, improve their quality of life.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
It is an irregular heartbeat or rhythm that is a major cause of strokes. Doctors estimate that having AFib can increase your risk for stroke by 500%. In addition, AFib is said to cause other serious health conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and even heart failures.
Two-thirds of those who suffer from AFib, can actually feel it. It can feel like butterflies fluttering in the chest, a fish flopping around as you breathe or a racing heartbeat. However, one-third of those who live with AFib, do not even know that they have it. Most often than not, they do not find out until they are scheduled for a surgery or procedure such as angioplasty. Sadly, many do not know until after they have had a stroke.
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Some people who suffer from atrial fibrillation generally do not experience any symptoms and remain unaware of their condition for years. Those who do experience symptoms may have:
- Chest pain
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Shortness of breath
Atrial fibrillation may be either occasional and patients suffering from it may experience symptoms that last for just a few minutes and the heart rhythm is back to normal. Some patients may also suffer from persistent atrial fibrillation wherein the heart rhythm does not go back to normal on its own.
Such patients may need medication or electrical shocks to restore heart rhythm. Those suffering from long standing persistent atrial fibrillation, can suffer for months at a time and will need medication to restore the abnormal heart rhythm back to normal for them.
The very first step in treating AFib is diagnosing the cause. In many cases an overactive thyroid may be the reason behind irregular heartbeats. If the underlying cause cannot be determined, the following treatment options may be recommended, based on your age, symptoms, and overall health.
- Medication to control atrial fibrillation
- Pills to reduce the risk of a stroke
- Cardioversion (electric shock treatment)
- Catheter ablation
- Fitting of a pacemaker
A treatment option using pacemakers will require surgery. If you or a loved one needs a pacemaker, contact Desert West Surgery for a consultation.