Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular, often rapid heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots in the heart. Stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related conditions increase when someone experiences atrial fibrillation.
The main goals of atrial fibrillation treatment are controlling your heart rate, regaining a normal rhythm, and reducing your risk of stroke. The first form of treatment physicians turn to is medication. If medication doesn’t help, surgery will be the next option.
Stroke risk can increase in those who take blood thinners to reduce clotting. Physicians often prescribe blood thinners to AFib patients to prevent clot-related strokes, but it can also increase the risk of stroke related to bleeding and blood vessel rupture. There is an alternative to blood thinners that helps reduce the risk of all types of stroke: the WATCHMAN device. The device is a quarter-sized implant that sits in the left atrial appendage, reducing the risk of stroke and allowing patients to ease off of blood thinning medication.
Palpitations are sensations you feel when your heart rate speeds up, or when you can feel it thumping in your chest. They are common, and causes include exercise, stress, and caffeine. Arrhythmias are disruptions in regular heart rhythm and can have more serious symptoms, such as chest pain, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. If you believe you are experiencing arrhythmias, schedule an appointment with a St. Joseph Health cardiologist.
Caring for your heart health is the best and easiest way to prevent heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet, staying active, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding stress can keep your heart strong.
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