Atrial Fibrillation

A-fib (atrial fibrillation) is the number one heart rhythm condition for Americans over the age of 65. In fact, it affects 2.5 million people in the United States. The likelihood of developing a-fib increases with age. At its core, a-fib is a disorder characterized by an irregular heartbeat that can jump from one extreme to the other (beating very fast, slow or erratically). The condition can actually quadruple stroke risk and double the chances of dying from a heart-related illness, according to the American Heart Association.

Arrhythmias and Treatment

People affected by a-fib are typically prescribed antiarrhythmic drugs to help regulate heartbeat. However, these types of medications have been associated with adverse side effects. The American Heart Association reports that antiarrhythmic drugs can actually result in more frequent occurrences of preexisting arrhythmias or even cause new arrhythmias to appear. In some cases, these new arrhythmias can be as bad or worse than the original ones being treated. Many people with a-fib also take a blood thinner to bring down the odds of developing blood clots or suffering a stroke.   Another treatment option is a procedure called catheter ablation. This is a surgical procedure where doctors insert a wire into a blood vessel on the upper thigh. From there, it is led to the heart. Once in place, an electrode delivers heat that kills the defective tissue behind the rhythm abnormalities. While effective, some patients need more than one ablation before they experience lasting effects. The newest type of ablation is known as cryoablation. It’s very similar to the other procedure, except that it uses extreme cold instead of heat. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, people with a-fib can live normal, active lives. Some treatments may restore a regular heartbeat. If not, long-term interventions and lifestyle changes can keep symptoms under control.

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