Atrial Fibrillation Can Cause Stroke, but It Is Treatable
- Author Dr. Tim Talbert
- Published October 2, 2020
- Word count 890
Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, is a type of arrhythmia, a heart condition that causes your heart to beat irregularly and quickly. It can increase your risk of stroke and heart failure but fortunately is treatable with lifestyle changes and medications. Dr. Timothy Talbert, a leading cardiologist in Chattanooga, can help you learn more about your condition and how to manage it. He can also help you find the best treatment for your health.
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
A diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation¹ means that during an attack, the heart beats faster and irregularly, and the different chambers of the heart are not working in sync. Because your heart isn’t filling up entirely, it cannot pump enough blood to other systems in your body, causing fatigue.
There are four types of AFib, which are identified by the frequency and rate of arrhythmia episodes. Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation occurs for less than a week, and in some cases, resolves itself without medical intervention. With persistent atrial fibrillation, symptoms persist for longer than a week, and medical treatment is usually needed.
The other two, long-term and permanent atrial fibrillation, are diagnosed after a year of symptoms. Permanent atrial fibrillation is the most severe and only diagnosed after several treatments have failed.
What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?
While damage to the heart chamber is the leading cause of atrial fibrillation, some patients also experience lone atrial fibrillation, which currently has no discernable trigger. However, several medical events² can cause heart damage, including high blood pressure, a heart attack, thyroid problems, smoking, and congenital heart defects.
In addition to heart damage, a patient’s age, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, obesity, and family history can increase their risk³ of developing atrial fibrillation.
Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms
Because the heart beats faster and irregularly during an AFib attack, symptoms can include heart palpitations, a feeling of weakness, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fainting. If these symptoms continue, they can also cause fatigue and make it harder to exercise. In a study of 100 patients seeking hospital assistance, 72 of them reported symptoms at night⁴.
If a patient has a history of heart problems and is experiencing these symptoms, they should make an appointment with one of the top-rated cardiologists in Chattanooga. Without treatment, atrial fibrillation can lead to severe complications, including blood clots, strokes, dementia, and heart failure.
Because the different types of atrial fibrillation are determined by how long the symptoms persist, it is helpful to keep a diary of symptoms that includes when the attack occurred, which symptoms were prominent, and how severe the attack was.
Atrial Fibrillation Treatment
After diagnosis through an EKG, physical examination, and other tests, including a sleep study, stress test, or chest X-ray, your doctor will recommend treatment options. If there are any underlying causes or risk factors like obesity, smoking, or high-stress levels, your doctor may address these first with suggested lifestyle changes⁵.
By losing weight, exercising, eating healthy, quitting smoking, or leaving stressful environments, you can decrease your risk for an atrial fibrillation attack and reduce the severity if an attack does occur.
There are also several atrial fibrillation medications⁶ your doctor may recommend. Like the lifestyle changes, many of these medicines address underlying health issues that can worsen the frequency and severity of AFib attacks.
Your doctor may also prescribe medicine that stabilizes and controls the heart rhythm. Beta-blockers and Flecainide are two commonly prescribed medications that help return the heart rhythm to normal after an attack. Other types of beta blockers and digoxin serve to control the heartbeat. The type of atrial fibrillation, along with other pre-existing medications and side effects, determines medication choice.
Because the risk of stroke is higher, your doctor may also prescribe a blood thinner like Warfarin. There have been many new studies in c, and recently, several new drugs have come onto the market. At your next appointment with the best cardiologist in Chattanooga, ask about the benefits of the new medicines ⁷ like dabigatran and apixaban and if they’re right for you.
Visit Dr. Timothy Talbert for More Information About Atrial Fibrillation Treatments
AFib is a serious condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, especially if your symptoms have lasted for more than a week. Although paroxysmal atrial fibrillation doesn’t always require medication, the other three types of AFib almost always require medical intervention in the form of medication or lifestyle changes prescribed by your doctor. Because atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke, it’s essential to consult with your doctor about preventative medication.
¹(2019, March 15). Atrial Fibrillation | NHLBI, NIH. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation
²(2019, June 20). Atrial fibrillation - Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atrial-fibrillation/symptoms-causes/syc-20350624
³(n.d.). Atrial Fibrillation | Circulation Research - AHA Journals. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circresaha.117.309732
⁴ (2004, August 3). Arrhythmia-provoking factors and symptoms at the onset of .... Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1471-2261-4-13
⁵ (2018, May 24). Ten Lifestyle Modification Approaches to Treat Atrial Fibrillation. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6059525/
⁶ (n.d.). Atrial fibrillation - Treatment - NHS. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atrial-fibrillation/treatment/
⁷(n.d.). Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke Information Page | National .... Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Atrial-Fibrillation-and-Stroke-Information-Page
Dr. Talbert graduated from medical school at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine in Memphis, Tennessee in 1988. He completed his residency at the University of Tennessee in Memphis and served his fellowship at Baylor University in Dallas, Texas. His major specialty is Cardiac Electrophysiology.
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