Atrial Fibrillation - Symptoms and Causes
Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition where the heart’s upper chambers beat out of rhythm with the lower chambers. This irregular and chaotic heartbeat may lead to blood clots and stroke. Some people with afib have no symptoms, while others feel a constant, fast, and pounding heartbeat (palpitations).
People with this condition often have flare-ups, and the episodes come and go. Still, much is unknown as to why this is the case. It is not life-threatening. However, it can cause strokes and other heart conditions. Many treatments can help.
Causes of Atrial Fibrillation
There are many causes of atrial fibrillation. It happens when it is signaled to the heart’s upper chambers to move chaotically and rapidly. This results in a quiver or shakes of the upper chambers that feel like heart palpitations.
In someone with this condition, the heart rate often ranges between 100 to 175 beats per minute. This is a giant leap compared to the normal range, between 60 to 100 beats per minute.
There are a lot of underlying conditions that can cause atrial fibrillation. Some of the causes include heart attacks, heart defects, high blood pressure, lung conditions, viral infections like covid-19, and caffeine and alcohol consumption.
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Some people do not show any signs of this condition, while others experience all the symptoms. This is mainly because you can have afib for years but only have an episode or two. In addition, the irregular heartbeat caused by atrial fibrillation is not always frequent.
The most common symptoms are:
- Heart rapidly racing
- Heart flutters
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart skipping a beat
- Thudding in the chest
- Chest pain and pressure
- Difficulty breathing
Risks and Complications of Atrial Fibrillation
A few types of people are at more risk of developing a-fib. It includes anyone over the age of 50 and individuals with heart disease (since their heart valves are defective).
High blood pressure can also cause an irregular heartbeat that develops into rapid heartbeats if not getting proper treatment. Obese individuals have extra weight on their hearts and their lungs. This extra weight can be dangerous and lead to fluctuations in their heartbeats.
The biggest concern amongst individuals with afib is that they are at a higher risk of developing blood clots, specifically in their hearts. Blood clots can become so severe that they develop into fatal heart conditions over time. Unfortunately, this is hard to detect, so it is vital to get treatment right away.
Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation
If you suspect that you have atrial fibrillation, it is time to contact your doctor. Once you do, they will most likely begin by asking about your family history, underlying conditions, and your symptoms. You can’t diagnose this condition without some kind of testing.
Based on the symptoms, your doctor will likely order tests like an electrocardiogram (EKG). During this test, your doctor will place sensors (known as electrodes) on your chest, head, and sometimes arms to perceive and measure the electrical pulses in your heart. The data can show how irregular or regular your heartbeat is.
Sometimes, your doctor will also recommend an event recorder. When medical professionals can’t find atrial fibrillation in your heart, they will let you take home an event recorder. It is portable and tracks your electrical responses for a total of 30 days.
How to Treat Atrial Fibrillation
Some people with afib have absolutely no symptoms and don’t need treatment for it. However, those who have severe symptoms may need a heart reset to control the symptoms. Each treatment plan looks different because the cause or underlying issue varies. For example, an individual who is obese may see a decrease in their a-fib symptoms once they lose weight.
A type of medication can decrease your chances of getting a blood clot in your heart. For example, your doctor may prescribe you blood thinners so that your blood doesn’t clot as your heart beats quickly.
A rare treatment is a type of medication called anti-arrhythmic medications. They regulate and consistently change the rhythm of the heartbeat. However, it is rarely given to patients as the side effects can be deadly.
How to Manage Atrial Fibrillation
Not everyone with this condition finds a cure. There are many ways, however, to decrease and treat the symptoms. Managing atrial fibrillation can be done with a few lifestyle changes. For example, cutting out caffeine and alcohol — which have been proven to quicken heart rates in a short amount of time.
This will decrease the stress on your heart as it beats and pumps blood. Another management technique is to eat heart-healthy foods, especially if you have a family history of health problems. Whenever you have a parent or grandparent with a heart condition, you are also at risk for developing one.
It is important to change your diet too by eating less fat, oil, and salt. Instead, experts recommend eating natural fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can also exercise alongside your new diet. Cardio is especially great for strengthening your heart as the blood pumps through faster as you exert yourself.
Conclusions on Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a common heart condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Most people with this condition have a heart that races too quickly, causing a vibration or quiver of the valves. It is completely treatable with medications and lifestyle changes. Not all people with this condition will suffer from the symptoms, but blood clotting is a risk.
- Can Atrial Fibrillation go away on its own? The short answer is yes. Atrial Fibrillation can go away on its own as you age.
- What is the life expectancy of someone with Afib? The life expectancy is between 55-74 years and has a mortality rate of 61.5% in men and 30% in women.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment. Always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!