February is American Heart Month, and that means now is the perfect time to get familiar with atrial fibrillation—also known as AFib. This is the most common heart arrhythmia found among patients. It can be a dangerous condition because it increases the risk of stroke by five times while doubling the risk of heart-related deaths.

What’s more, many patients with AFib don’t experience symptoms, causing them to be unaware that they have it. Because of this, it’s estimated that the prevalence of AFib in the United States ranges between 2.7 million and 6.1 million. According to the CDC, that number is expected to rise to 12.1 million by 2030.

This is why it’s important to recognize the signs of this common heart condition for yourself and your loved ones. Doing so might help save a life.

Types of AFib

There are several types of atrial fibrillation. Recognizing these can help you recognize the symptoms in others.

  • Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is when AFib begins without warning and stops just as suddenly.
  • Persistent AFib is AFib that lasts longer than a week.
  • Long-standing persistent AFib lasts for more than a year without going away.
  • Permanent AFib is AFib that continues indefinitely despite treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

AFib is usually caused by abnormalities or damage to the heart’s structure. If you have any of the following conditions, you’re more likely to develop atrial fibrillation:

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease, heart defects or heart failure
  • Rheumatic heart disease or pericarditis
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes or metabolic syndrome
  • Lung disease or kidney disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • A family history of AFib

Certain behaviors can also increase the risk for AFib. This includes caffeine consumption and alcohol abuse. High stress levels and mental health conditions can also be a factor in atrial fibrillation. These are reasons why lifestyle modifications are often recommended to prevent AFib.

Symptoms of AFib

Some people aren’t aware they have AFib because they don’t notice the symptoms. That’s why it’s important to be aware of common symptoms so that you can more easily detect any that are present. These can include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Faintness or confusion
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Chest discomfort or pain

Treatment and Prevention

It’s impossible to completely prevent AFib, but there are many things you can do to keep your heart healthy. Lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and exercising can help to prevent atrial fibrillation. There are also medicines, procedures and surgeries available for patients with AFib to help prevent blood clots, slow the heartbeat, or treat an abnormal heart rhythm. These treatments can include:

  • Medications to control the heart’s rhythm and rate.
  • Blood-thinning medicine to prevent clots from forming and reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Specialized treatments like ablation.
  • Healthy lifestyle changes to manage your risk factors.

If you think you may be suffering from a heart rhythm disorder, speak to your doctor or cardiologist about visiting the cardiac electrophysiologists at Heart Rhythm Consultants. Our care coordinators are happy to provide you with more information about testing and treatment options, including ablation therapy. We value your health and wellbeing above all else. Our experienced team is always ready to assist you with any questions about your heart health. Speak with a care coordinator today and schedule an appointment with Heart Rhythm Consultants.

About Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A.

The experienced electrophysiologists of Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. have been serving West Florida including Sarasota, Venice, Tampa, Port Charlotte, and Sun City Center for over 15 years. Our specialty cardiologists, or EP doctors, help patients manage their abnormal heart rhythm conditions, whether they suffer from arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation (AFib), or other irregular heartbeats. Dr. Dilip J. Mathew, Dr. Antonio Moretta, and Dr. Rajesh Malik perform arrhythmia treatments like cardiac ablation, cryoablation, and implanting pacemakers or defibrillators. Dr. Mathew has performed nearly 5,000 complex cardiac ablations. View our office locations in Sarasota and Venice, Florida.