September is Atrial Fibrillation Month. Should you be worried about this condition?
Your doctor tells you that you have an irregular heartbeat. Just how concerned should you be?
A normal heart beat contracts and relaxes at regular intervals. But an arrhythmia — irregular heart beat — means something else is going on. Your heart may be beating too fast, too slow or erratically, and that can affect how effectively it pumps your blood and whether clots form and your organs are getting the blood they need.
The most common arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, according to the Heart Rhythm Society. More than 2.5 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib. In this type of arrhythmia, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) quiver instead of contract. You may not have any symptoms, which may make you think that it's nothing to worry about.
While you shouldn't panic about atrial fibrillation, you shouldn't ignore it, either. Here are the top 5 points to know about atrial fibrillation.
- Atrial fibrillation increases your stroke risk, because it allows blood to slow down or pool and increases the chance of clotting, according to the American Heart Association. It also doubles your risk of heart-related deaths.
- In most cases, atrial fibrillation is related to an underlying heart condition, but it can also occur in people with no structural problems with their heart. Your doctor will want to find out if there is a condition causing the arrhythmia so it can be treated.
- Symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, a fluttering in your chest, dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue or sweating. Some symptoms are similar to heart attacks. If you experience chest pain or pressure or other symptoms that make you think you are having a heart attack, get help immediately.
- A good treatment plan for atrial fibrillation is one that will restore the heart to a regular rhythm, keep the heart rate close to normal and prevent blood clots from forming.
- Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk for the onset of AFib or help you manage your condition. That includes getting regular exercise, eating a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol, monitoring your blood pressure, stopping smoking and avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine.
Kendall Regional Medical Center's Heart and Vascular Institute is your place to go for comprehensive cardiovascular care. We offer the latest technology, experienced heart care specialists and multiple support services to diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease. If you are looking for a physician who specializes in cardiology, you can search our physician locator online or call Consult-A-Nurse at 1-888-256-7719 for a referral.