Last updated: 4 Feb 2022 | 1233 Views |
The speed and pattern of your heartbeat is called your heart rhythm and can be felt by feeling the pulse. Your heart rhythm is set by signals from the heart’s electrical system. An abnormal
heart rhythm is called an arrhythmia. Atrial fi brillation is one type of abnormal rhythm. The muscle looks as if it is wiggling instead of squeezing (contracting).
Among the many causes, the most common is aging. Others are heart problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), congestive heart failure (CHF), and mitral valve disease (mitral stenosis). Lung diseases, other illnesses (e.g., diabetes), and overactive thyroid are more causes. Caffeine, nicotine (cigarettes), and too much alcohol can cause it or make it worse.
Many people have atrial fi brillation and never feel it. Symptoms often include the feeling of irregular or too fast (palpitations) heartbeats. Diffi culty breathing, chest pain, or
fainting may occur. Some people feel tired or cannot exercise. Chest pain or signs of stroke must be checked immediately.
The doctor looks for a certain pattern on an electrocardiogram (ECG), which shows the heart’s electrical activity. The doctor may check movements of the atria with an echocardiogram (using ultrasound to examine the heart and capture the moving images on a video). If your atrial fi brillation comes and goes, your doctor may order a portable recorder of your heart rhythm (Holter monitor).
Treatment focuses on the cause. For example, if the person has thyroid disease, that illness is treated. If the cause is too much caffeine or excess alcohol, less should be used.
Controlling heart rhythm and the fi brillation rate with drugs is important. These medications are known as antiarrhythmics and are used to slow down the heart rate and make it regular. Sometimes atrial fi brillation stops on its own. Clots are one complication of fi brillation. Blood thinners (anticoagulants) such as warfarin (e.g., Coumadin®) may be given for clots or to prevent them. This drug causes easy bruising or bleeding, so drug levels are checked regularly.
The abnormal rhythm can sometimes be shocked back to normal (called cardioversion). During this procedure, a heart specialist (cardiologist) will give your heart a brief electric shock in attempting to briefl y stop all electrical activity, hoping that the normal heart rhythm will take over. Chest pain, low blood pressure, CHF, or other serious symptoms may require emergency cardioversion. A dual-chamber pacemaker may be placed. A heart catheter or surgery (maze procedure) may be used to destroy the part of the heart causing fi brillation.
Things to do
Do eat a heart-healthy diet (less fat and cholesterol).
Do keep to an ideal body weight.
Do reduce stress.
Do exercise as much as you can if you are taking the
proper drugs and have no symptoms.
DO take your medicines as prescribed. Have blood drug
DO call your doctor if you have drug side effects or if you
have new or worsening symptoms (dizziness, chest pain or
tightness, fainting, shortness of breath).
DON’T do activities that cause bruising if you are taking
a blood thinner.
DON’T use tobacco.