Atrial Fibrillation: What You Need to Know

Did you know that US President Joe Biden lives with a heart condition called atrial fibrillation? This condition increases the risk of stroke by five-fold and doubles the risk of heart attack and dementia. Surprisingly, many people around the world are unaware that they have atrial fibrillation, with over 37.5 million individuals affected.

Atrial fibrillation is a common heart rhythm disorder that affects people of all ages. It causes irregular heartbeats that can be either fast or slow. While it is more prevalent as we age, some individuals develop it in their 30s and 40s. This abnormal heart rhythm originates in the top chambers of the heart, affecting its ability to pump blood effectively. This can lead to complications such as blood clots and other severe health issues.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation can vary from person to person. Some people may experience heart palpitations, breathlessness, or discomfort when they go into an episode. These symptoms can disrupt their daily activities. However, others may have no symptoms at all, making it challenging to detect atrial fibrillation.

It is essential to discuss any concerns with your GP if you experience symptoms or suspect you may have this condition. They can conduct tests such as an electrocardiogram (ECG) to evaluate your heart’s electrical activity and refer you to a specialist if needed.

If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, it is crucial to manage your risk of complications, such as an increased risk of stroke. Taking steps such as cutting down on alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, and participating in regular exercise can help improve your overall health.

Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medication or recommend other treatments such as heart rhythm control medications or ablation procedures. Ablation is a procedure that targets the electrical origin of atrial fibrillation to restore normal heart rhythm.

Did you know that more than three in five people with atrial fibrillation also have high blood pressure? High blood pressure is a significant cause of stroke and heart attacks. That is why managing blood pressure is critical for those with atrial fibrillation.

Controlling blood pressure can be done through a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and regular monitoring. It is essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to achieve good blood pressure control and reduce the risk of stroke.

For individuals at the highest risk of stroke, particularly those with both atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure, early intervention is paramount. Strokes, heart attacks, and dementia are still leading causes of death worldwide. By taking proactive steps to prevent these complications, such as managing blood pressure and seeking timely medical care, we can significantly improve our health and well-being.

Remember, it is always better to prevent health issues rather than treat them. If you suspect you may have atrial fibrillation or are concerned about your heart health, reach out to your healthcare provider. They can provide guidance, conduct tests, and recommend appropriate treatment options. Taking care of your heart today can lead to a healthier tomorrow.

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