HealthWatch: Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month

Afib is the most common heart rhythm problem we see in practice, affecting one in four adults over 40.
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 6:40 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - September is atrial fibrillation, or Afib, awareness month. Afib is the most common heart rhythm problem we see in practice, affecting one in four adults over 40.

Afib happens when the upper chambers of the heartbeat rapidly in a disorganized manner. This affects blood flow and some patients experience a fluttering or hummingbird feeling in their chest. Another common warning sign of Afib is weakness or windedness when exerting energy. Other symptoms might include dizziness, lightheadedness, and fatigue.

Although afib is very common, fifteen to thirty percent of people experience no symptoms upon presentation and don’t know that they are actually in Afib until it gets picked up by a monitor oftentimes for a routine checkup.

After we diagnose Afib, one of the most commonly asked questions is what caused it? Unfortunately, one definitive cause rarely exists. Multiple factors can lead to an Afib diagnosis, the most common of which is aging which is something we, unfortunately, can do nothing about.

A human’s heart beats more than 100,000 times every day and eventually, things can begin to wear down to the point where they don’t function quite as well. The heart is a pump that is signaled to beat each time through an impulse carried through an intricate electrical system, and as this electrical system wears, it may start to falter and afib may initiate.

Other risk factors for afib, include obesity, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and alcohol consumption. Afib is often a progressive condition and tends to advance if left untreated. It can increase a person’s risk of stroke by five times.

The good news is that it can be treated! We have medication and procedures that can make a big difference in slowing or stopping the progression of afib. In some instances, we may need to do a procedure called cardioversion, which delivers quick, low-energy impulses to the patient’s chest, sometimes a cardioversion doesn’t hold a person out of atriol fibrillation long enough and in some cases, we then perform a which cardiac ablation which uses small burns or freezes to help disrupt abnormal signals and give a patient a greater chance at having a long-term normal heart rhythm.

Afib can be monitored with wearable devices such as an Apple Watch or a Fitbit. Another option is the Kardia – which is an electrode device that connects to your phone and can pick up an irregular heartbeat through a person’s fingertips.

If you think that you are in Afib, evaluate your symptoms. If you’re having chest pain, shortness of breath ,and are dizzy even after trying to rest, then you should get to the emergency room or call 911. If you are comfortable at rest, but notice an irregular heartbeat, call your doctor for further evaluation of your condition.