Parish Nurse Corner April-May Managing A-Fib

Mark 12:23—“For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says.”

Managing A-Fib to Reduce Your Risk

What is A-Fib?    Atrial Fibrillation is an abnormality of the rhythm of the heart.  Although A-Fib itself is not dangerous, it is a serious medical condition that needs to be managed because it significantly raises your risk for a stroke or a heart attack.  The abnormal heart rhythm associated with A-Fib means blood does not pump through the heart as it should, causing it to pool in the atria where it can form a clot.  If a clot breaks free and blocks a blood vessel to the brain, you may have a stroke.  A clot in the heart can cause a heart attack.  People with A-Fib are five times more likely to have a stroke and three times more likely to have a heart attack.  If you have A-Fib, you are not alone.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that more than three million Americans have A-Fib.  Your risk of A-Fib increases with age.

A-Fib Symptoms:    The most common symptoms of A-Fib are a fluttering heart and fatigue.  You may also feel dizzy, anxious, have shortness of breath, or even feel chest pain or pressure.  Some people have no symptoms at all (called Silent A-Fib).  Repeated incidents of A-Fib can lead to irreversible heart rhythm abnormalities.  Although A-Fib sometimes goes away on its own, it generally requires treatment.  If you have any questions about A-Fib, or experience symptoms that may indicate A-Fib, talk to your doctor.  Early treatment for A-Fib can prevent a debilitating stroke or heart attack.

Risk Factors for Stroke:    Age, diabetes, family history, congestive heart failure, being female, A prior stroke, systolic blood pressure greater than 120 (top number).

Treatment Overview:    There are many treatments for A-Fib, including medications, surgery, and other nonsurgical procedures.  The primary goal of treatment is to reduce your risk of stroke by preventing blood clots.  Depending on your symptoms and the severity of A-Fib, your physician may also recommend treatments to restore your heart rate or heart rhythm.