Is it that twinkle his eye that makes your heart skip a beat? Or could
you have Atrial Fibrillation?
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is an irregular and often rapid heart rate
that commonly causes poor blood flow to the body. Atrial fibrillation
symptoms include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, tiredness and
weakness. However, for many there are no noticeable symptoms. A-fib can
be occasional (symptoms come and go from minutes to hours) or chronic
(symptoms will not resolve without treatment).
Men and Women are Different
If you are a woman, your risk of
developing A-fib is less than that of a man, but your risk of stroke and possible
death from stroke is greater. Fortunately, if you have been diagnosed
with A-fib, you can take steps to prevent A-fib-related stroke. Unfortunately,
many people who have A-fib don’t know it. Read on to understand
Detection and Diagnosis
The simplest way of detecting atrial fibrillation is by feeling the pulse
for an abnormal rhythm. When a clinician suspects A-fib, there are a number
of tests that will be carried out in order to establish a diagnosis.
EKG — A quick and painless test that records the electrical activity
of the heart done by connecting leads
Blood Tests — Atrial fibrillation can develop due to disease elsewhere in the
body, such as a thyroid gland problem. You may be asked to have a blood
test in order to exclude such problems.
Rhythm Monitoring — With different types of A-fib, your heart is sometimes in a regular
heart rhythm (sinus rhythm) and occasionally in the irregular heart rhythm
(atrial fibrillation). Therefore, you may be asked to wear a Holter monitor,
which is strapped to your chest and will record your heart rhythm continuously
for up to seven days.
- Occasionally, when a patient is experiencing many symptoms, but diagnosis
is proving difficult to confirm, an “Implantable Cardiac Monitor”
may be recommended. This is a small monitor that is inserted beneath the
skin of your chest under local anesthetic and then remains in place, monitoring
your heart rhythm day and night until removed.
Major Complications of Atrial Fibrillation
Heart failure occurs if the heart can't pump enough blood to meet
the body's needs. A-fib can lead to heart failure because the ventricles
are beating very fast and can't completely fill with blood. Thus,
they may not be able to pump enough blood to the lungs and body.
On average, the risk of stroke is five times greater in A-fib than in normal
sinus rhythm (regular heartbeat). During A-fib, the heart's upper
chambers, the atria, don't pump all of their blood to the ventricles.
Some blood pools in the atria. When this happens, a blood clot can form.
If the clot breaks off and travels to the brain, it can cause a stroke.
Hear from a MWHC patient who was diagnosed with A Fib, but let it go untreated.
He is now one of our stroke survivors…Meet Ken.