AFib awareness: Learn about risks, treatments and the latest research
[4 MIN READ]
In this article:
- Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a condition where the heart can’t pump blood properly because of irregular heartbeats.
- New research and treatments are making living with AFib easier.
- A Providence patient shares his story of healing from AFib after a life-saving heart procedure.
- Heart conditions increase the risk of complications from COVID-19. Learn ways to protect yourself.
Has your heart ever skipped a beat? Maybe you felt it flutter as you were anxiously awaiting news from a family member or friend. Or perhaps you’ve experienced it racing after watching an exciting finish during a sporting event.
When it comes to irregular heartbeats, these scenarios are all perfectly normal. But if you notice your heart skipping or racing while you’re sitting around the house, lying in bed or relaxing in front of the television, it’s time to see a doctor.
A fluttering heart could be atrial fibrillation, or AFib, which is a heart rhythm disorder that affects millions of people each year. As COVID-19 continues to spread in our communities it’s more important than ever to protect your heart and be aware of how to manage your symptoms, as heart conditions can increase your risk for severe complications from the virus.
With September marking National AFib Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to learn more about AFib risk factors, symptoms and treatments. Below are some essential resources to help you get started.
Key facts about AFib
By 2030, it’s estimated that 12.1 million Americans will be diagnosed with AFib. It’s a serious health condition, but knowing the risk factors, causes and symptoms can help you spot the disease early. And the more you know about AFib, the more you can work with your doctor to avoid long-term health problems like stroke. These articles can help get you started:
What to do after an AFib diagnosis
An AFib diagnosis may feel overwhelming and scary. Still, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on activities you love. Speaking to your doctor about what activities are appropriate for you and finding the right treatment can help you live a full and active life.
There are several treatment options available for AFib, including medicines, minimally invasive surgeries and implantable devices. Learn more about life with AFib and the various treatment options in this article, You’ve been diagnosed with AFib: Now what?
Life-saving ablation and implantation procedures
For some people, managing AFib requires more than medication. That was the case for Jim Halff, an active 77-year-old based in West Los Angeles, CA. After finding that his AFib medicines zapped his energy, he sought treatment with Providence cardiologist, Shephal K. Doshi, MD.
Dr. Doshi, a national leader in cardiac electrophysiology, performed an ablation procedure on Halff using state-of-the-art 3D mapping. This procedure created scar tissue on Halff’s heart, which helped block electrical signals that were creating an irregular heartbeat. Dr. Doshi also implanted a Watchman device on Halff’s heart, which helps reduce the risk of stroke and eliminates the need for blood thinner medication.
“There’s just no comparison to life before the procedures. Now I’m back to my normal self,” says Halff. “Dr. Doshi really looks out for his patients and takes the time to explain everything. In my opinion, he saved my life.” Read more about Halff’s life-saving AFib treatment.
The latest in AFib research
AFib is the primary cause behind more than 454,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year. It also contributes to roughly 158,000 deaths annually. And unfortunately, these stats are on the rise.
Recent research has shown that AFib-related deaths are increasing among younger people (ages 35-64).
Another study released in July 2021 showed that athletes may be more at risk for AFib. However, the study also showed that exercise is still an important way to reduce risk for cardiovascular problems if you have other risk factors, like high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
Although AFib cases may be on the rise, there’s hope in research. Doctors and scientists are actively studying new and better ways to detect and treat AFib.
A 2019 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that Apple smartwatches can accurately detect AFib.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently okayed the Amplatzer Amulet Left Atrial Appendage Occluder, a new treatment for AFib patients at risk for ischemic stroke.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently authorized a four-year study to research ways to predict which patients are more at risk for AFib recurrence after ablation procedures.
It’s important to note that having a heart condition doesn’t make you more likely to get COVID-19. But having a pre-existing heart condition like high blood pressure, AFib, heart failure or pulmonary disease creates higher risk of more severe infection if you do get COVID-19. That’s because these heart conditions lower the natural reserves your body needs to fight the infection.
There are a few things you can do to take care of your heart and help prevent a heart emergency during this pandemic:
Keep taking your heart disease medicines (including your high blood pressure and high cholesterol drugs) based on your doctor’s orders
Make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of those medicines
Call your doctor right away if you have new concerns about your health, especially if you feel sick
Most important of all, the American Heart Association says, “Don’t die of doubt.” If you experience the first sign of a heart attack or stroke, call 911. Hospitals are still the safest place you can go to receive lifesaving treatment. Don’t delay getting emergency care if you need it.
Find a doctor
If you need expert cardiovascular care, our team of physicians is ready to help. You can find a Providence doctor using our provider directory. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of healthcare services.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.