5 Reasons Why AFib Should Matter To You

Rhythm applies to more than just dancing; it has a huge impact on heart health. An arrhythmia is any problem with the speed or pattern of the heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of arrhythmia. 

In fact, it is estimated that more than 2.3 million Americans have AFib, with nearly 150,000 new diagnoses each year. To provide a comprehensive look at AFib, Niraj Sharma, MD, an electrophysiologist affiliated with Gwinnett Medical Center, offers key insights into why AFib is such an important condition to know about.

Understanding AFib. This common condition causes fast, chaotic electrical signals in the heart. As signals move through the heart, they tell the heart’s upper chambers (atria) and lower chambers (ventricles) when to squeeze (contract) and relax. This lets blood move through the heart and out to the body and lungs. With AFib, this affects how much blood your heart can pump out to the body.

Are there different types of AFib? Yes. Oftentimes, those with a milder or intermittent type of AFib will progress into a more chronic or persistent form of AFib. There are three main types of AFib, these include:
  • Paroxysmal, or intermittent: AFib episodes usually last seven days or less and they often come and go without any treatment
  • Persistent: AFib episodes last more than seven days and becomes continual
  • Longstanding persistent: Persistent AFib episodes that continue for longer than one year

What causes AFib? While AFib is more common in older adults, there are many possible causes and triggers that can impact people of all ages. With several different types of AFib, it is important to remember that an individual with AFib can have stretches where their heart beats normally. When their heartbeat becomes irregular, this is often due to a trigger that induces an AFib episode. These episodes can last anywhere from seven days or less to longer than a year.

Below are some of the most common causes and triggers of AFib. Often times, AFib triggers and causes will vary from person to person, as will the symptoms, so it is best to work with your physician to assess your overall risk. Here are some of the most common causes:

In addition to common causes, triggers should not be overlooked either. For those who have AFib or are at risk of developing AFib, learning about your triggers can help to prevent an induced episode. Some of the common triggers include:
  • Stress, anxiety and/or intense emotions
  • High amounts of caffeine and/or alcohol
  • Fatigue and/or lack of sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Physical exertion or extreme exercise
  • Over-the-counter medications (e.g., allergy, cold, flu…etc.)

Why is AFib a serious condition? On its own AFib may not cause serious side effects; however, it does significantly increase your risk of serious complications. These can include:

When it comes to AFib, having specialized care is essential to ensure overall health and to minimize complications. The good news, though, is that there are many effective treatment options available to you. At Gwinnett Medical Center, our specialists will work to find the best treatment plan possible for you, this may include lifestyle changes, medication to treat heart rate, heart rhythm or antiplatelets and anticoagulants, as well as, catheter ablation.  Our expert physicians and electrophysiologists will work together to provide you with the most thorough, compassionate care possible.


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