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What is Afib?

Have you ever felt your heart flutter, race or skip a beat? Most of us have at some point, But if this happens more frequently, you may have atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation (Afib) is a problem with the heart’s rhythm – the way it beats. When someone is “in Afib,” the heartbeats in a rapid, chaotic way.

What are some of the signs & symptoms?

Have you ever felt your heart flutter, race or skip a beat? Most of us have at some point, But if this happens more frequently, you may have atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation (Afib) is a problem with the heart’s rhythm – the way it beats. When someone is “in Afib,” the heartbeats in a rapid, chaotic way.

chest pain

chest pain

dizziness or feel faint While many women have one or more of these symptoms, some say they don’t experience any.

dizziness or feel faint While many women have one or more of these symptoms, some say they don’t experience any.

unexplained shortness of breath

unexplained shortness of breath

very rapid or irregular heartbeats – some women say they feel their heart flip-flopping in their chests, skipping a beat or fluttering

very rapid or irregular heartbeats

Listen to your body, Afib can occur every once and a while (called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation) or all the time (chronic atrial fibrillation).

Either way, be sure to tell your health care provider about all of your symptoms.

Millions of Women live with atrial fibrillation (Afib). Even though it is more common in men, women with Afib are more likely to have a stroke. Untreated, Afib can also lead to heart failure and chronic fatigue.

Risk factors:

Afib is more likely as you get older. On average, women tend to develop Afib around 75 years of age (vs 67 for men). However, younger women can also have it. Other risk factors can include:

other heart problems, especially valve disease, heart failure or a history of heart attack or open heart surgery

other heart problems, especially valve disease, heart failure or a history of heart attack or open heart surgery

family history

family history

other medical conditions including thyroid problems, diabetes and sleep apnea

other medical conditions including thyroid problems, diabetes and sleep apnea

high blood pressure (hypertension)

high blood pressure (hypertension)

Smoking

Smoking

being obese

being obese

alcohol

alcohol

How is Afib diagnosed?

Your doctor will first ask how you have been feeling and perform a physical exam. If you’ve noticed chest pains, breathlessness or a racing heart, be prepared to tell him or her when they happen (laying down, climbing stairs, etc.) and how often.

How is Afib diagnosed?
Your doctor may order some routine blood work and other screening.

Your doctor may order some routine blood work and other screening.

Your doctor may order some routine blood work and other screening.

There are a number of things you can do to live well with Afib and prevent problems.

A

Pay attention to risk factors for Afib, heart disease and stroke. Make sure your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are stable.

Make sure your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are stable.
Eat a healthy diet.
B

Eat a healthy diet.

C

Exercise regularly and monitor your weight.

Exercise regularly and monitor your weight.
alcohol, caffeine, upper respiratory infections and extreme stress.
D

Know what triggers an episode. Doing so will help you prevent or better anticipate Afib.
Common risks that triggers an AFib episode: alcohol, caffeine, upper respiratory infections and extreme stress.

E

Learn how to pace yourself. Most women living with Afib will tell you it is a livable condition

Learn how to pace yourself. Most women living with Afib will tell you it is a livable condition
Have a plan to stay calm. Anxiety can make episodes much worse.
F

Have a plan to stay calm. Anxiety can make episodes much worse.

G

Take your medications as prescribed.

Learn how to pace yourself. Most women living with Afib will tell you it is a livable condition
Know your risk of stroke & other health problems
H

Know your risk of stroke & other health problems

Possible treatments include lifestyle changes and medications and/or medical procedures

Possible treatments include lifestyle changes and medications and/or medical procedures

  • blood-thinning medications to prevent clots
blood-thinning medications to prevent clots
  • heart rate control medications that bring the heart rate to a normal level
heart rate control medications that bring the heart rate to a normal level
  • heart rhythm control medications that restore or maintain normal heart rhythm
heart rhythm control medications that restore or maintain normal heart rhythm
  • electrical cardioversion –paddles are applied to the chest to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm
electrical cardioversion –paddles are applied to the chest to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm
catheter ablation
  • catheter ablation – wires are inserted into veins in the leg or arm and threaded to the heart to alter abnormal areas that may be causing the abnormal heart rhythm
surgical maze
  • surgical maze – small cuts are made in the heart, creating a “maze” that prevents the abnormal beats from controlling the heart. This is a very effective treatment, but because this requires open heart surgery, it is often used when other options have failed.
Afib is often an ongoing condition that needs to be managed.
  • It’s not a one-time episode!

    Afib is often an ongoing condition that needs to be managed. Women say having regular appointments with their cardiologists and taking medicines to steady their hearts is something you need to follow to maintain a healthy life.



Your doctor will ask you many questions about your symptoms and medical history. You will be asked about any conditions you have that may cause heart failure (such as coronary artery disease, angina, diabetes, heart valve disease, and high blood pressure). You will be asked if you smoke, take drugs, drink alcohol (and how much you drink), and about what drugs you take.

How Is Heart Failure Diagnosed?

You will also get a complete physical exam

Your doctor will listen to your heart and look for signs of heart failure as well as other illnesses that may have caused your heart muscle to weaken or stiffen.

Your doctor may also order other tests to determine the cause and severity of your heart failure. These include:

Blood tests

Blood tests are used to evaluate kidney and thyroid function as well as to check cholesterol levels and the presence of anemia. Anemia is a blood condition that occurs when there is not enough hemoglobin (the substance in red blood cells that enables the blood to transport oxygen through the body) in a person’s blood.

B-type Natriuretic Peptide (BNP) blood test

BNP is a substance secreted from the heart in response to changes in blood pressure that occur when heart failure develops or worsens. BNP blood levels increase when heart failure symptoms worsen, and decrease when the heart failure condition is stable. The BNP level in a person with heart failure — even someone whose condition is stable — is higher than in a person with normal heart function. BNP levels do not necessarily correlate with the severity of heart failure.

Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray shows the size of your heart and whether there is fluid build-up around the heart and lungs.

Echocardiogram

This test is an ultrasound which shows the heart’s movement, structure, and function.

The Ejection Fraction (EF) is used to measure how well your heart pumps with each beat to determine if systolic dysfunction or heart failure with preserved left ventricular function is present. Your doctor can discuss which condition is present in your heart.

Echocardiogram

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)

An EKG records the electrical impulses traveling through the heart.

Cardiac catheterization

This invasive procedure helps determine whether coronary artery disease is a cause of congestive heart failure.

Stress Test

Stress Test

Noninvasive stress tests provide information about the likelihood of coronary artery disease.

Other tests may be ordered, depending on your condition.



Heart failure is caused by many conditions that damage the heart muscle, including:

Coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease (CAD), a disease of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart, causes decreased blood flow to the heart muscle. If the arteries become blocked or severely narrowed, the heart becomes starved for oxygen and nutrients.

Narrowing of Artery
Narrowing of Artery
Normal Artery
Normal Artery

Heart Attack

heart attack occurs when a coronary artery becomes suddenly blocked, stopping the flow of blood to the heart muscle. A heart attack damages the heart muscle, resulting in a scarred area that does not function properly.

Narrowing of Artery
Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy

Damage to the heart muscle from causes other than artery or blood flow problems, such as from infections or alcohol or drug abuse.

Conditions that overwork the heart. Conditions including high blood pressurevalve diseasethyroid disease, kidney diseasediabetes, or heart defects present at birth can all cause heart failure. In addition, heart failure can occur when several diseases or conditions are present at once.

Cardiomyopathy


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