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An Introduction to AFib

What you don’t know about Atrial Fibrillation can hurt you.

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib for short, is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, strokes, and heart failure. With September being National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month, here are the top 5 things to know about this heart condition.

1. It’s More Common than You Think

While over 2.7 million people in the United States suffer from the condition today, it’s estimated that that number will balloon to 12.1 million by 2030. In 2019, AFib was mentioned on 183,321 death certificates and was the underlying cause of death in 26,535 of those deaths.

2. AFib Offers Warning Signs

For those with AFib, here are some common symptoms of the disease:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart palpitations (rapid, fluttering, or pounding)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

If you feel general fatigue, dizziness, and/or fluttering in the chest, it’s important to go to the hospital or cardiologist as soon as possible. Once there, doctors can conduct a painless electrocardiogram test which is the most effective way to determine if someone has AFib. It’s best to go to the professionals for an official diagnosis in order to receive effective treatment.

3. The Risks Associated with AFib

The older you get, the more likely you’ll develop AFib. High blood pressure, the risk for which also increases with advancing age, accounts for about 1 in 5 cases of AFib. Risk factors include:

  • Advancing age
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • European ancestry
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Enlargement of the chambers on the left side of the heart

There are many risk factors that increase your chances of getting AFib. While some aren’t preventative, such as a family history of heart disease and thyroid issues, several of these risks are preventable.

4. You Can Help Prevent It

Preventative measures against AFib include limiting your consumption of alcohol and tobacco use. Other actions you can take are being active, lowering your blood pressure, and controlling your cholesterol. Having a healthy diet, managing stress properly, and proper sleep have also been shown to lower your risks of getting AFib as they all lower blood pressure.

5. How to Treat AFib

Once diagnosed with AFib, doctors will take several steps to treat this heart condition. Simple methods include medication and therapy, whereas more severe cases require surgery to fix. The goals of these treatments involve setting the heart rhythm, controlling the heart rate, and preventing blood clots to lower the risk of strokes.

With this information, you now have the knowledge and power to identify, prevent, and treat AFib. If you’re concerned you may have developed the condition, consult your doctor as soon as you can.

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