Being Aware Of Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most frequent heart rhythm disturbance, affecting one in four people at some time in their life. An irregular, often abnormally fast heart rate is a common way AF disrupts the system.
Blood comes back to the heart from the body through the upper collecting chambers, known as the atria. They are stimulated to move blood through the heart by a series of electrical impulses, at 60-100 beats per minute.
In AF, the heart rhythm is disturbed because electrical activity in the atria becomes chaotic. The irregular heartbeat this brings can be debilitating and increases the chance of heart failure, or stroke.
Being aware of the possibility of AF is important, in safeguarding your health and improving the quality of your life.
There are cases where people barely notice the symptoms, or put tiredness down to becoming older, although once treated feel far better.
Where symptoms of atrial fibrillation are evident, heart palpitations are often felt. Your heart could also seem to be pounding, or beating irregularly, for a few seconds, or a few minutes.
Chest pain is not unknown, perhaps dizziness, shortness of breath, or fatigue and a reduced ability to exercise. A general and unwelcome feeling of weakness.
AF can be caused by a structural heart problem, such as heart valve disease or coronary artery disease. The condition can be linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, or other issues, such as an overactive thyroid.
Sleep disorders may have an impact, as can lifestyle, such as drinking too much alcohol, or inactivity, or being significantly overweight.
AF is an individual condition, which may have one cause, or more than one. Seeing an experienced cardiologist will make sense, to call on their knowledge and ability to analyse a range of tests.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) can be used to map heart rate variations, whilst an ultrasound scan helps to see the heart’s structure and pumping function. Blood tests, or x-rays may
assist in identifying causes.
If there is a risk of stroke, blood thinning medication might be prescribed to reduce that risk. The core objective is regaining normal heart function.
In some cases, medication may be all that is needed. Catheter ablation can be considered, a day surgery procedure, where catheters are passed through the vein at the top of the leg and from there, up to the heart.
The areas giving rise to AF by stimulation are then treated, by cauterising, or freezing localised parts of the inside surface of the heart.
Treating underlying causes can be a solution, or a pacemaker in a few cases. There is no single answer, the reason to see a specialist, who can consider your symptoms and the precise nature of AF in your case.
By all means take a look at the work of our cardiology department, to see how they help with AF and other heart conditions.
15 October 2023