Atrial fibrillation, commonly known as AFib or AF, is a condition that causes the upper chambers of the heart to beat irregularly and extremely fast (about 500–600 beats per minute). The prevalence of AFib in the United States ranges from 2.7 million to 6.1 million (ref. link) people, with this number is projected to rise to 12.1 million by 2030 (ref. link). According to a 2013 study (ref. link), the estimated number of individuals with AFib worldwide in 2010 was 33.5 million. This represents approximately 0.5% of the world’s population.
Fortunately, there are a variety of medical treatments available to manage AFib and reduce the risk of complications. Medications, cardioversion, catheter ablation, and surgical options are among the treatments that healthcare providers may recommend for patients with AFib. We’ll explore the latest advancements in AFib treatment and provide valuable insights into managing this condition for a healthier, happier life.
Symptoms of AFib include palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, and dizziness.
The diagnosis of AFib is typically confirmed with an electrocardiogram (ECG) or Holter monitor, which records the heart’s electrical activity over time.
It is important to accurately diagnose AFib to determine appropriate treatment options and reduce the risk of complications.
Overall, timely and accurate diagnosis of AFib and effective management of risk factors and complications can significantly improve a patient’s outcomes and quality of life.
Anticoagulants are often prescribed to reduce the risk of blood clots, which can lead to serious complications like stroke or pulmonary embolism. Anticoagulants work by inhibiting the clotting factors in the blood, making it less likely for clots to form. They require close monitoring, as they can increase the risk of bleeding. Newer anticoagulants (ref. link) like dabigatran, apixaban, and rivaroxaban have been developed in recent years that have fewer side effects and do not require as much monitoring as warfarin.
Antiarrhythmics are used to help restore and maintain normal heart rhythm. These medications work by blocking or slowing the electrical impulses in the heart that cause AFib. Some antiarrhythmics can have serious side effects, so patients taking these medications need to be closely monitored. The patient will be prescribed a beta blocker (ref. link), such as bisoprolol or atenolol, or a calcium channel blocker, such as verapamil or diltiazem.
Cardioversion is a non-invasive procedure that can be done as an outpatient or inpatient procedure. In electrical cardioversion, a controlled electrical shock is delivered to the heart to restore normal heart rhythm. In pharmacologic cardioversion, medications like amiodarone are used to restore normal heart rhythm. Cardioversion (ref. link) is often used when medication is not effective or when AFib has been present for a long time.
Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to destroy small areas of heart tissue that are causing irregular heartbeats. During the procedure, a catheter is inserted into the heart through a vein in the groin or neck, and radiofrequency energy is used to destroy the tissue that is causing the AFib. Catheter ablation (ref. link) is effective in restoring normal heart rhythm in about 70-80% of patients. The procedure carries some risks, including bleeding, infection, and damage to the heart.
The Maze procedure (ref. link) is a surgical procedure that involves creating a series of small incisions in the heart and using radiofrequency energy to create scar tissue. The scar tissue redirects electrical impulses in the heart and can help restore a normal rhythm.
The Mini-Maze procedure is a minimally invasive version of the Maze procedure that uses smaller incisions and a robotic arm to create the scar tissue. Surgical options are typically reserved for patients who have not responded to other treatment options or who have a severe form of AFib.
In addition to these treatment options, patients with AFib should also make lifestyle modifications to reduce their risk of complications. These may include quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and managing conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. Ongoing management of risk factors is an important aspect of managing AFib and reducing the risk of complications.
Lifestyle modifications are an important aspect of managing atrial fibrillation (AFib). They include changes in diet, exercise, and stress management, as well as avoidance of triggers.
Diet and Exercise Recommendations
A healthy diet and regular exercise can help manage AFib. A heart-healthy diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products. It is also recommended to limit salt, sugar, and saturated fat intake.
Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure and reduce stress, both of which can be triggers for AFib. Moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling, for at least 150 minutes per week is recommended.
Avoidance of Triggers
Certain triggers can cause AFib or make it worse. These triggers include:
Avoiding or limiting these triggers can help manage AFib symptoms.
Stress and anxiety can trigger AFib. Stress management techniques, such as relaxation exercises, deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can help manage stress and reduce the risk of AFib episodes.
Follow-up and Monitoring
It is important to have ongoing care and monitoring for AFib. This includes regular check-ups with a healthcare provider and monitoring for any recurrence of AFib symptoms.
Finally, given the prevalence of AFib, it is important to follow all the steps above to be able to live a full happy life through the condition. One of the best ways to feel continually safe is by keeping constant tabs on your cardiac functioning. This may seem tedious, but with a smart heart monitor like the Frontier X2, all it takes is to strap on your device and you’re ready to go. The Frontier X2’s unique continuous ECG monitoring feature gives you access to detailed, accurate data on your cardiac functioning, so you can always know what’s going on with your heart!
The primary goals of treating AFib are to prevent blood clots, control heart rate and rhythm, and reduce symptoms.
Medications commonly used to treat AFib include anticoagulants, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and antiarrhythmic drugs.
Procedures used to treat AFib include cardioversion, catheter ablation, and surgical ablation.
Lifestyle modifications that can help manage AFib include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, avoiding triggers such as caffeine and alcohol, and managing stress.
Anticoagulants are used to prevent blood clots that can lead to stroke or other complications in people with AFib.
Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:
Endurance Training | Low Carb Diet | Yoga for Heart Health | Irregular Heartbeat causes | AFib and Heart | Atrial Fibrillation Heart Rate | Resting Heart Rate | Best Heart Rate Monitor | Running Heart Rate | Increased Heart rate