Atrial fibrillation refers to irregular heart rhythm with rapid heartbeat that affect the blood flow in the body. In this condition, the irregular heartbeat starts in the upper chambers of the heart, the atria. The irregularity in the heart beat results from the problem in the electrical system of the heart. The lower chambers of the heart beat rapidly without a rhythm. There is no synchronization between the beatings of the atria and ventricle. Irregular heartbeats can result in the pooling of the blood in atria. This may result in blood clots and stroke. Atrial fibrillation is also a cause of heart failure and is very common in elderly people, particularly those above the age of 60-years-old.
Atrial fibrillation is caused by a number of factors that damages or causes strain on the heart:
- Coronary artery disease
- Disease of the heart valve
- Heart attack
- Health conditions like lung disease, pneumonia or hyperthyroidism
- Alcohol abuse
- Certain stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and cocaine
- Certain medications
- Sleep apnea
Some of the common symptoms of this condition include feeling dizzy, hypotension, lightheaded feeling, confusion, weakness, palpitations, breathlessness, and chest pain. One should immediately get medical attention if any of the above-mentioned symptoms are present. Early identification and treatment is very essential for preventing serious complications later.
A complete investigation is usually done when one presents with the symptoms of atrial fibrillation. Heart rate and ECG are used to diagnose the condition. Echocardiogram helps in identifying whether there are any heart valves are damaged.
Treatments recommended for this condition depends on the cause and symptoms. In most cases, cardioversion is suggested to bring back the rhythm of the heart. Medications are suggested to prevent stroke. This includes anticoagulants and aspirin. Medications that control the heartbeat rate are used to regulate the rapid heartbeat rate. Antiarrhythmics are recommended to bring back the rhythm of the heartbeat.
In those cases where cardioversion and medicines are not helpful, a procedure called ablation is suggested to destroy those areas of the heart the cause irregular heart rhythm.
Simple changes in lifestyle also go a long way in controlling in improving the overall health:
- Quit smoking
- Have a healthy diet
- Maintain blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Get regular exercise
- Avoid unnecessary stress
- Limit the intake of caffeine, alcohol and stimulants
- Atrial fibrillation is caused by a number of factors that can damage or cause a strain on the heart.
- Atrial fibrillation should be treated immediately.