Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is the most common type of arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm. During A-fib, your heart may beat much faster than normal and cause your heart’s upper and lower chambers to communicate poorly. If they are not working properly, the lower chambers of your heart will not fill completely or pump enough blood to the rest of your body.
Today, there are many at-home devices, like Apple Watches or Kardia monitors, which can detect A-fib when it occurs. However, confirming the diagnosis may require more formal studies including an electrocardiogram (EKG) or Holter monitor. If you feel your heart beating faster or harder than normal, it is important to talk with your doctor to see if your condition may be related to an arrhythmia.
What are the Symptoms of A-Fib?
Episodes of A-fib, like your heart beating fast, may come and go, or they may be persistent. Symptoms of A-Fib include:
- Sensations of a fast, fluttering or pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
- Chest pain
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Shortness of breath
A-fib also can cause your blood to pool and potentially form clots, and if a clot breaks loose, it can lead to a stroke. People with A-fib are at a higher risk of experiencing a stroke compared to people with other health issues.
As you age, the risk for A-fib increases. Other risk factors for A-fib include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Thyroid problems
- Chronic kidney disease
- Moderate to heavy alcohol use
- Sleep apnea and other heart conditions
How is A-Fib Diagnosed?
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it is important to talk with your doctor to find out what could be causing these issues who may then refer you to a cardiologist. If it is A-fib, it can be paroxysmal (or sudden), persistent or permanent and may require different forms of treatment. Treatments include medication, electro-cardioversion or a minimally invasive procedure called ablation.
The MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center offers the latest in advanced technologies to diagnose and treat A-fib. Procedures are performed in the newly renovated, state-of-the-art electrophysiology (EP) lab. One of the new procedures Long Beach Medical Center has launched is the WATCHMAN™ program.
The WATCHMAN™ device is intended for patients with A-fib who are at high risk for stroke and bleeding. The device is designed to close the left atrial appendage and prevent blood clots from entering the bloodstream. Over time, heart tissue grows over the device and it becomes a permanent part of the body. The benefit for patients receiving the WATCHMANTM device is that it helps to reduce stroke and bleeding risk without the need for lifelong blood thinners.
To learn more, visit memorialcare.org/MHVI.