February 15, 2024

Could You Have Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial Fibrillation Blog Graphic - Could You Have Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)?

Heart health is a key component of living a long, healthy life. Sometimes, a person develops a heart condition even if they practice heart-healthy habits. For example, atrial fibrillation (Afib) is the most common arrhythmia. Many people, if they live long enough, are going to develop Afib at some point.

Dr. Raaid Museitif, cardiologist at Fort HealthCare, shares important information about this common affliction of the heart.

What Exactly Is Afib? Symptoms and Testing

With Afib, the heart doesn’t squeeze the way it’s supposed to, thus causing the top portion of the heart to stop. This malfunction can lead to various symptoms such as fatigue, lightheadedness, low blood pressure, a racing heart, and shortness of breath. Afib can also result in strokes because of the blood clots it creates.

Some people present to the emergency department with symptoms, while others discover they have Afib by undergoing regular cardiac checkups with their primary care provider—such as an EKG.

“We do that test because it can help us see what type of rhythm, you’re in, and it can tell us some other key information. Sometimes Afib just gets picked up with the EKG,” explains Dr. Museitif. “Then, they need to be further assessed. And they need to be assessed for their risk of having a blood clot, because not everybody needs to be on anticoagulation. We see the patient and we have formulas to tell us what we should do next.”

How Is Afib Treated?

One approach to address Afib is to prescribe a certain type of medicine that regulates the heart’s rhythm. Another strategy is to administer a small shock to the heart to “reset” it. This procedure is called cardioversion. “We really try to give people a try of being back at a normal rhythm, and we can do cardioversion for that,” notes Dr. Museitif.

The cardioversion procedure takes less than five seconds, and patients are placed under conscious sedation, so they feel nothing. Success rates depend on the patient’s unique circumstances and any comorbidities they have. Some people have been in Afib for years, undiagnosed, and their heart is stretched out so much that cardioversion may not work. Of course, that’s a discussion individuals should have with their cardiologist.

Patient Outlook

Unfortunately, there is no cure for AFib. More importantly, one’s risk of having a stroke is with them forever.

“Whether you have been converted to normal, whether we’ve left you alone and we’re just controlling your heart rate, or whether you’ve had something called an ablation where they’ve gone in and tried to burn it away, your risk of stroke is the same always,” cautions Dr. Museitif. “If your risk score is high enough, your provider would put you on a blood thinner. We don’t cure it, but we can make it feel better.”