Atrial fibrillation is a common rhythm disorder of the heart. It affects men more than women and is more common over the age of 60. Atrial fibrillation is commonly diagnosed with the use of an electrocardiogram. Often there may be no symptoms, and it is picked up as an incidental finding.
In this blog I explain what atrial fibrillation is as well as some of the common causes including a medical condition that is so often overlooked:
Complications of atrial fibrillation
A potentially life-threatening complication of atrial fibrillation is the risk for a stroke. This is caused when a blood clot travels from the heart to the brain. The risk of a blood clot is high in atrial fibrillation, because when the top chambers of the heart (the atria) beat in a disorganized fashion, not all the blood gets pumped into the bottom chamber (the ventricles) as it should. Pooled blood tends to clot in the heart chambers. If the blood clot passes into the ventricle and then gets pumped out, it can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Blood clots from atrial fibrillation can also affect several other organs in the body, for example the kidneys, the intestines, and the limbs. If your risk for forming clots is high, your healthcare provider may recommend that you take a medication to “thin” the blood. This is called an anticoagulant (also commonly called a blood thinner). There are several types of blood thinners and all of them increase your risk of bleeding. So have a conversation with your healthcare provider about the benefits of preventing a stroke versus your risk of bleeding and also what to do if this happens.
Common Treatments for Atrial fibrillation:
Atrial fibrillation is usually treated by a heart specialist called a cardiologist. There are two common ways to treat atrial fibrillation. One way is called rhythm control where the goal is to convert the heart rhythm back to a normal sinus rhythm. It is much easier to get the heart back to a normal rhythm when atrial fibrillation just recently occured. Rhythm control can be achieved in two ways. With the use of medications called anti-arrhythmic medications or by delivering an electrical shock controlled to the heart in a controlled way called cardioversion.
The second way to treat atrial fibrillation is by rate control. Even remains in atrial fibrillation, but the goal is to slow down the rate that the top chambers of the heart are beating so that blood can be delivered more efficiently to the bottom chambers (the ventricles) and then pumped out to the rest of the body.
A Mind-body approach to heart disease:
There are many people living with atrial fibrillation as a chronic illness. As I promised in the video blog, it is my intention to begin to incorporate recommendations for integrating more of a mind-body dimension in my posts. To date there are countless studies that validate the mind-body connection and how it relates to our overall wellbeing. Please do not in anyway think that I am promoting this as the only solution to dealing with chronic illness.
Science has shown that the rhythm of our heart beat affects how we feel and also experience emotions. As with any chronic illness, our emotions tend to run awry and sometimes we may sink into a negative mindset which causes heartbeat to vary from beat to beat. When our heart beat varies widely between each beat, this is called incoherence. There are techniques we can learn to shift our emotional state, so that we can better control our heart rhythm. This technique is called heartmath. Heart math is a great technqiue to learn. There are many apps you can buy on your smartphone. To learn more about heartmath click on this link.
In summary atrial fibrillation is a common and treatable heart rhythm disorder. It is important to seek medical attention for atrial fibrillation as it increases your risk for stroke.
This article was originally posted by Dr. Eno from Women Living With Diabetes
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