Is your heart feeling funny? Don’t laugh it off!

Most of us have heard the term atrial fibrillation—more commonly known as “Afib”—it’s maybe even hit close to home. But do you really know what it means, how it feels, or the risks that often accompany Afib? First, it’s important to know that if you’re diagnosed with Afib, you’re five times more likely to suffer a stroke. However, there are treatments and preventive measures that can help you manage Afib and advanced treatment options that can minimize symptoms for years in some patients.

So, what exactly is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in the heart. The exact cause of Afib is unknown, but it's more common with age and affects certain groups of people more than others. People who have obesity, as well as other long-term health conditions such as: diabetes, chronic kidney disease, lung disease, or sleep apnea are at higher risk of developing Afib.

How will I know if I have Afib?
Symptoms for Afib differ for each person, and some have no symptoms at all. It’s important to talk with your provider to get an Afib diagnosis. Here are some of the symptoms you should look out for:

  • Feeling overtired and sluggish
  • A faster-than-normal pulse or changing between fast and slow
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Pain, pressure, or tightness in your chest
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

What causes Afib and how can I take steps to prevent it?
Simply put, the most common cause of Afib stems from problems with your heart’s structure. However, there’s more to it than that. Heart diseases and health problems that can cause Afib include:

  • Something you’re born with, a congenital heart defect
  • A problem with the heart's natural pacemaker, called sick sinus syndrome
  • A sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea
  • Heart attack
  • Heart valve disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Lung diseases, including pneumonia
  • Narrowed or blocked arteries, called coronary artery disease
  • Thyroid disease such as an overactive thyroid
  • Infections from viruses

What can we do to reduce or prevent Afib:

  • Remove or reduce alcohol and caffeine use
  • Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Reduce salt and saturated fats from your diet
  • Watch your weight (people who have obesity are at higher risk of developing Afib)
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day and get a good night’s sleep
  • Reduce and manage stress.

Malachy Sullivan, MD, physician, Electrophysiology, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center says, “Don’t wait if you think you might have Afib, we are here to help and have treatment options that will get you back to living the life you deserve. Talk to your primary care provider about how you are feeling – your heart will thank you.”

If you think you may have Afib, or if you’ve been diagnosed and are considering treatment options, we are here to help.

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