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All About A-Fib: Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

All About A-Fib: Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Every minute, your heart should beat 60-100 times so it circulates oxygenated blood throughout your body. And this heartbeat should keep a steady rhythm. When you have an abnormal rhythm in your heart, which is called an arrhythmia, complications can develop.

The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation (A-Fib), which affects at least 2.7 million people in the United States. This number is on the low side, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that more than 12 million people will have A-Fib by 2030.

In this month’s blog post, heart health expert Dr. James Kim and our team are going to focus on A-Fib — what it is, its risk factors, and how we go about treating the condition.

A-Fib — an abnormal heart rhythm

Under normal circumstances, each of your heartbeats is initiated by the sinus node in your upper right atria. This cluster of cells creates an electrical impulse that initiates the heartbeat, which starts with the contraction of your upper atria. 

This contraction forces the blood down into your right ventricle, and then it travels through your pulmonary artery to your lungs to pick up oxygen. From there, the blood travels back into your heart and exits your lower left ventricle.

When you have A-Fib, the upper chambers of your heart, your atria, quiver instead of beat, which is less effective for moving blood down into your ventricles.

Symptoms of A-Fib

Some people with A-Fib have no symptoms, while others can experience:

These symptoms can be constant or occur only when you’re exerting yourself.

Complications of A-Fib

Since blood is unable to more through your heart as effectively when you have A-Fib, the condition can place you at risk for developing some very serious problems, including:

To give you an idea about the threat, A-Fib causes 1 in 7 strokes.

Risks for A-Fib

Several factors may heighten your risk for developing A-Fib, including:

While there may be nothing you can do about certain of these risk factors, such as age, there’s plenty of room for improvement and management in many of the others.

Treating A-Fib

The treatment options for A-Fib vary depending upon the degree of the arrhythmia and your existing health. Our first goal is to reduce your risk of developing a blood clot, so we may start you on blood thinners. 

We also want to regulate the rhythm of your heart, which we can attempt through medications as well as important lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet, losing weight, and exercising more.

If your A-Fib is serious or not responding to more conservative measures, we may recommend an ablation procedure, during which we create adhesions that break up the irregular electrical impulses to better control your heart’s rhythm.

We can also turn to the Watchman™, a device that prevents blood clots from forming in your heart.

If you want to learn more about your treatment options for A-Fib, please contact us at one of our offices in Chula Vista or National City, California.

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