Irregular or rapid heartbeat is known as atrial fibrillation. It occurs when the upper chambers of the heart contract rapidly or irregularly. Shortness of breath, palpitation and weakness are common symptoms of atrial fibrillation. In some cases, atrial fibrillation may occur occasionally for a short period, and in others, it is a chronic problem. If left untreated atrial fibrillation may lead to severe health complications, which increases the risk of stroke and heart failure. Management of atrial fibrillation involves alleviating the symptoms and reducing the risk of medical complications.
Atrial Fibrillation Management Tips
Normalize Heart Rhythm
The primary goal of atrial fibrillation management is normalizing the heart rhythm. Anti-arrhythmic drugs are used as first line treatment for treating this condition. These drugs are taken orally or administered intravenously to restore the normal heart rate. Once the normal heart rhythm is restored, your doctor may ask you to continue taking an anti-arrhythmic medication to prevent recurrent atrial fibrillation.
Drugs commonly prescribed for treating this condition include amiodarone, propafenone, dronedarone, dofetilide and sotalol. When atrial fibrillation causes the heart to beat at a faster rate, to slow down the heart rate, you may take beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers and other blood pressure lowering drugs. By reducing the blood pressure, these drugs reduce the risk of developing atrial fibrillation-related complications.
By thinning the blood, antithrombotic therapy reduces the risk of stroke in atrial fibrillation patients. Aspirin and warfarin are the most popular anticoagulant medications recommended for preventing blood clots due to atrial fibrillation. Treatment with vitamin K antagonist is another effective antithrombotic therapy option.
Along with medications, appropriate lifestyle changes can protect you from atrial fibrillation. A high fiber and low fat healthy diet is recommended for people susceptible to atrial fibrillation. A salt restricted diet helps to normalize the heart rhythm by keeping the blood pressure level under control. Quit smoking and limit alcohol and caffeine intake to prevent abnormal rise in the heart rate. To improve the function of the heart and the quality of life, exercise regularly. However, avoid vigorous physical activities. Moderate intensity aerobic workout for about 20 to 40 minutes or as recommended by your physician helps to reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation.
Electrical cardioversion, commonly known as electric shock therapy, is a popular option for restoring the normal heart rate. This therapy is performed under anesthesia. nThe electrical activity of the heart stops briefly when electrical shock is applied. In most cases, the normal heart rhythm is restored after the heart restarts.
If your normal heart rate cannot be restored with the aforementioned non-surgical therapies, your cardiologist may recommend surgery. An artificial pacemaker may be implanted to normalize the heart rhythm. Catheter ablation is an effective option for restoring the normal heart rhythm. In this procedure, the heart tissue that triggers atrial fibrillation is destroyed with radiofrequency energy. For permanent relief from atrial fibrillation, your doctor may recommend maze operation. In this surgical procedure, a maze of scar tissues is created to prevent transmission of abnormal electrical impulses that trigger atrial fibrillation.