Heart and Vascular Care
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What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a condition in which electrical impulses in the top chambers of the heart are extremely rapid and chaotic, creating an irregular heartbeat.
While people with AFib don’t always exhibit the signs, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it could be AFib:
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual fatigue
- Dizzy spells
Haseeb Jafri, MD, FACC, FHRS, electrophysiologist and cardiovascular specialist with Kettering Physician Network Heart & Vascular, says the condition is not life-threatening on its own, but it can lead to stroke or congestive heart failure if left untreated.
How do I know if I’m at risk?
AFib generally affects more women than men, and the risk of AFib increases with age. In women, the risk increases after age 60 and continues to increase between 65 and 85. Triggers include hormonal fluctuations in women, certain over-the-counter medications, as well as alcohol and caffeine.
“Any kind of stressful events can trigger AFib,” Dr. Jafri says. “Even something as simple as a person who doesn’t hydrate well taking in more caffeine than they’re used to can provoke an episode.”
Whether you’re experiencing symptoms or know you are at increased risk, it is important to be screened for AFib. It’s diagnosed using an electrocardiogram (EKG), where several small electrodes are placed on the skin to record heart activity.
Your treatment options
Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical options. Dr. Jafri encourages people with AFib to:
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet low in salt, cholesterol, and saturated and trans fats.
- Manage blood pressure.
- Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
- Avoid tobacco.
- Control cholesterol.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
“Although AFib is not life-threatening, it profoundly impacts the quality of life of patients,” Dr. Jafri said. “People’s lives can be vastly improved if we can identify and treat this extremely common arrhythmia.”
Did you know?
Kettering Health recently expanded cardiology services, expanding the cath lab and adding a new electrophysiology (EP) lab at Grandview Medical Center. EP labs assist in the diagnosis and treatment of heart arrhythmias, allowing for a shorter procedure time, less radiation exposure, and a greater chance that patients with highly complex arrhythmias can be treated.