What is Atrial Fibrillation? Symptoms, Causes & Diagnosis 2022
Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm problem that occurs when the small chamber in the center of the left side of the heart, called the atrium, begins to contract chaotically and irregularly. Instead of contracting in a coordinated way at regular intervals, as it should, the atrium may begin contracting erratically and chaotically, causing blood to pool up in the atrium and not flow smoothly into the other chambers.
This can lead to blood flowing too slowly or pooling up in one location instead of another. Atrial fibrillation is one type of arrhythmia (or abnormal heartbeat). It's also referred to as AF or afib. As with many conditions related to the heart, it's more common among older adults. Learning more about atrial fibrillation can help you understand your risks and what you can do to prevent developing it – or manage it if you already have it.
What are the Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is typically not accompanied by any specific symptoms, although some people may notice a change in the rhythm of their heartbeat. If you're diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, it's important to be aware of what's going on with your heart rhythm and report any new or different sensations you experience.
If you're diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, you may also notice that you experience palpitations or an irregular heartbeat. These sensations can be troubling and cause some anxiety, but they may not be related to AF.
How is Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosed?
A doctor may be able to diagnose atrial fibrillation after taking a medical history and performing a physical exam. The doctor will likely discuss treatment options if atrial fibrillation is diagnosed. An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a test that is often done to confirm the diagnosis, as well as a heart ultrasound.
Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is usually managed with medications; in most cases, people can continue living their lives as they did beforehand. Atrial fibrillation can sometimes be managed with at-home lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, and sleep. If these efforts are unsuccessful, your doctor may prescribe medication that can help control the symptoms of atrial fibrillation, such as blood pressure medications, blood thinners, and medications to help regulate heartbeat rhythm.
During a heart attack, doctors administer certain medications to stop the heart from contracting and allow it time to heal. In this case, the atrial fibrillation would be treated with cardioversion, which uses an electrical current to interrupt the arrhythmia and restore regular heart rhythm.
1. Managing Atrial Fibrillation: Medications and Strategies
Many medications can help control the symptoms of atrial fibrillation, and some lifestyle changes may also be effective. There are two general categories of medications that can treat atrial fibrillation: rhythm-control medications and rate-control medications. If you're diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, speak with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your unique situation.
2. Managing Atrial Fibrillation: Heart Rhythm Monitor
One of the tools used to manage atrial fibrillation is the heart rhythm monitor. This device is usually implanted in the upper left portion of the chest and is connected to electrodes attached to the top of the heart. The device measures the heart rhythm and sends that information to a device worn on the wrist to show the wearer what their heart is doing.
This can be useful for people who have atrial fibrillation and want to track their heart rhythms and identify when symptoms are occurring. Heart rhythm monitors help manage atrial fibrillation in some cases, but it's important to know that they do not cure the condition or provide any ongoing heart health benefits. This is because heart rhythm monitors are not intended to detect heart abnormalities as an electrocardiogram would.
3. Managing Atrial Fibrillation: Breathing Strategies and Exercises
Several breathing strategies and exercises can help you control your breathing while you have atrial fibrillation. The most effective strategies are tailored toward your specific condition and symptoms.
- Breathing exercises: You can try breathing exercises to help reduce stress and anxiety, both of which may trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation. Breathing exercises like yoga and tai chi are also good ways to stay physically and mentally healthy.
- Deep breathing: Deep breathing is a simple but effective exercise for people with atrial fibrillation. Try to breathe slowly and deeply, holding your breath for several seconds and then exhaling slowly.
- Stress-reduction techniques: Stress can trigger atrial fibrillation and make your symptoms worse. You can do many things to reduce your stress, such as yoga, meditation, walking, or reading.
4. Managing Atrial Fibrillation: Working With a Cardiologist to Manage Risk
If you've been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, working with your doctor to manage your heart health risks is important. This can include getting regular check-ups, keeping track of your heart rate and blood pressure, and taking medications as prescribed. It's also important to be aware of when you might be more at risk for atrial fibrillation. If you have an underlying heart condition that increases your risk for atrial fibrillation, you may want to be extra careful during these times:
- Winter: Cold weather can cause blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to an increase in blood pressure.
- Stress: Stress can cause blood pressure to rise and trigger atrial fibrillation in people who already have the condition.
- Diet: Foods that increase blood pressure, such as fatty and salty foods, should be eaten in moderation.
- Exercise: Exercise can help control blood pressure and heart rate, reducing the risk of atrial fibrillation.
Conclusion: Causes of Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a common heart rhythm disorder that can be controlled by medication and lifestyle changes. It can be triggered by stress, diet, cold weather, or other factors. Atrial fibrillation can be triggered by stress, diet, cold weather, or other factors. It can be managed with lifestyle changes, medication, or heart rhythm monitor devices.