What is Atrial Fibrillation?
In a normal heart, there is co-ordinated electrical activity to make sure that the heart’s muscles beat in a rhythmic sequence to best pump the blood around the body. The blood enters the atrium, then gets pumped through to the ventricle, which then pumps the blood out to the lungs and the rest of the body.
In Atrial Fibrillation (AF), this electrical activity is disturbed and the muscles in the atria instead spasm in a unco-ordinated sequence. This can happen for a number of reasons, for example after a heart attack or because of thyroid issues, but often the cause is unknown.
When the heart goes into AF, you may feel funny heart-beats or ‘palpitations’. You may also feel short of breath, light-headed or have chest pain. Often however, you may not know you have it at all. It may be picked up on an ‘ECG’, a machine that measures electrical activity of the heart.
Why Does it Matter?
The most important problem with AF is that because the atria is not pumping blood properly, a lot of blood gets stuck in the atria. This makes the blood more likely to clot, and these blood clots can have very serious medical consequences, in particular strokes.
What should I do about it?
The best treatment of AF depends on a number of factors, in particular the patient’s risk for stroke. There are some procedures that can attempt to fix the problem which may or may not be appropriate. If you have long-term AF, it is likely you may need some medications. This could involve medications which slow the speed of the heart, or try to normalise the heart’s rhythm. Depending on your risk for stroke, the doctor may also start you on a blood thinner, or ‘anticoagulant’. This is a medication to stop your blood from clotting, so your risk of stroke is lower.
Apart from this, it is important to remain healthy with regular diet and exercise, avoiding smoking and monitoring your blood pressure!
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2018. Atrial Fibrillation Fact Sheet [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_atrial_fibrillation.htm. [Accessed 07 April 2018].
Heart Foundation 2018, Atrial Fibrillation – Understanding Abnormal Heart Rhythm [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/CON-175_Atrial_Fibrillation_WEB.PDF [Accessed 07 April 2018]
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