When it comes to heart health, nearly everyone's heard of heart attacks and cardiac arrest. But atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, has been receiving a lot of attention recently, and for a good reason. As the most common type of heart arrhythmia, it is estimated that as many as 6.1 million Americans have AFib.
So AFib is common, but what’s the big deal?
To keep your heart running smoothly, it actually has its own electrical system that regulates heartbeat and blood flow by sending signals to each of the four heart chambers, timing the heartbeat. However, when these signals misfire or fire haphazardly, the result is an arrhythmia.
AFib can be quite debilitating on its own, but its impact doesn’t stop there. In fact, it can have far reaching effects on more than just your heart. For instance, AFib can lead to:
· Worsening of kidney disease
· Shortened lifespan
With all these potential complications, avoiding AFib altogether sounds pretty good, right? To help you do just that, David Wilson, MD, a Gwinnett Medical Group cardiologist with expertise in electrophysiology, shares his advice.
So, can AFib be prevented?
Well, the truth is, it’s complicated. Due to the complexity of this condition, there isn’t always one clear culprit. There are several key risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing AFib, some of which can’t be controlled, like age and family history.
But for the risk factors you can control, if you begin taking steps to minimize them, you may just be able to steer clear of AFib. Here are 6 AFib risk factors you should know:
1. Uncontrolled high blood pressure. Longstanding, uncontrolled high blood pressure is believed to actually change the heart’s structure, making an irregular heartbeat more likely.
2. Drinking alcohol. Short term binging or long-term drinking of alcohol, even in moderate amounts, may actually cause the heart's left atrium to get bigger, which can contribute to AFib.
3. Trouble sleeping. While experts are still investigating the link between a lack of sleep and AFib, there is a clear connection between sleep apnea and AFib. This is because sleep apnea, which obstructs breathing, causes people to wake many times during the night to start breathing again. It's possible that disrupted sleep, along with a drop in the level of oxygen in the blood, might lead to AFib.
4. Obesity. Because of the damage obesitycauses to the heart, it is linked to many heart conditions, AFib being one of them. This is due to the fact that obesity can lead to a build-up of pressure in the right side of the heart, which can actually cause it to stretch, not to mention the increased risk of sleep apnea diabetes and high blood pressure.
5. Stress. There is some evidence that links common stressors, like work, family, finances and traumatic events, to an increased likelihood of developing AFib.
6. Underlying chronic conditions. Common, chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, thyroid problems and heart disease can all increase your risk of developing AFib. Although you may not be able to control these conditions entirely, by working with your doctor, you can find a healthy way to manage these conditions long term.
Get AFib care without skipping a beat.
When it comes to AFib, expert care at every stage from diagnosis to treatment is essential. That’s why, at GMC, each patient will receive personalized care directly from our dedicated heart team including board-certified cardiologists and cardiac electrophysiologists. We have you covered, from treating the conditions that promote AFib, all the way through advanced treatments like cardiac ablation which in many can be curative of atrial fibrillation.
To ensure that expert care is accessible and convenient for every patient, GMC offers online scheduling, as well as consultations by calling 678-287-1473.