Understanding AFib: Life and Treatment of a Common Disease

(Family Features) Being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation can be scary, but it doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying life. Learning more about your condition and treatment options can significantly affect your prognosis and quality of life.

AFib is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm. It occurs when the upper chambers of the heart, called the atria, beat rapidly or uncontrollably. AFib can cause a wide range of symptoms, including palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty exercising, anxiety, chest pain, and dizziness.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Stroke, AFib affects nearly 40 million people worldwide, including 6 million people in the United States alone. Despite its prevalence, many people are unfamiliar with the symptoms, available treatment options, and the importance of early treatment to avoid disease progression or other life-threatening complications such as stroke.

According to a survey conducted by Biosense Webster, Inc., part of Johnson & Johnson MedTech, more than a quarter of adults living with AFib experience fear and anxiety about the progressive nature of the disease. However, a quarter of patients did not receive treatment immediately after diagnosis, and 44% of patients ended up in the emergency room because of their condition.

Talk to your doctor
Although half of adults aged 55 and older believe they may be at risk for FPF, only one-fifth (18%) said their doctors had ever discussed FPF with them and more fewer (10%) actively talked about it with their doctors. Recognizing the symptoms and seeing a doctor as soon as possible can help prevent the progression of ACE.

Change your lifestyle
About 1 in 4 adults over the age of 40 are at risk of developing AFib. The causes are many and include non-modifiable and lifestyle factors. Some unchangeable risk factors include age, family history, and a diagnosis of heart disease.

Making lifestyle changes to control factors such as obesity, smoking, and sleep apnea can help reduce your risk. Limiting alcohol and caffeine intake and managing stress can also reduce the risk and may help manage AFib episodes.

Consider treatment options
For most patients with AFib, treatment begins with medication. Medicines can be used to control the heart rate, rhythm and thickness of the blood, but about half of patients do not respond to or cannot tolerate the medicines. Catheter ablation is a procedure to restore the heart’s faulty electrical signals that cause irregular heart rhythms. The American College of Cardiology, the Heart Rhythm Society, and the American Heart Association recommend for patients when treatment fails.

To learn more about AFib and treatment options, including catheter ablation, visit getsmartaboutafib.com.

Questions to ask your doctor
If you’re concerned about your risk of AFib, consider the following questions to ask your doctor at your next visit:

Questions to ask your primary care physician:

  1. I have anxiety symptoms. Could they be the result of AFib?
  2. Do I need to have any diagnostic tests?
  3. Am I at risk of having a stroke?
  4. When should I go to the emergency room?
  5. Do I need to make lifestyle changes?
  6. What are my treatment options?
  7. Should I consult a specialist?

If your doctor recommends medication:

  1. Why do you recommend this drug?
  2. What should I do if I have side effects or it doesn’t work?
  3. Can I take this medication with other medications I am already taking?

If the medicine does not work:

  1. .Am I suitable for a catheter ablation procedure?
  2. What are the benefits and risks of the catheter ablation procedure?
  3. Can you refer me to an electrophysiologist?

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