Atrial fibrillation (Afib) has many causes and can lead to serious symptoms. However, with the right medications and lifestyle changes, you can live a normal life. Dr. Layth Saleh explains more.
In the normal heart, the heart is made up of four different chambers, two lower ones that are the ventricles and two upper ones that are the atria. With a normal rhythm at rest, people have a heart rate of around 60 to 100 beats per minute that starts on the right, in the upper right chamber, which is the right atrium. And then it goes down. There is a problem with atrial fibrillation that actually exceeds this normal rate and instead of working the upper chambers at 60 to 100 beats per minute, it goes to 300 and 350 and 400 beats per minute. There is more than one way that Afib negatively affects the heart. First of all, you lose your normal atrial function. And that means, that increases about 15, 20% of your cardiac output, or the pumping capacity of the heart. And then the second thing with a heart rate that is fast is, you could actually affect how the lower part of the heart works. The ejection fraction is what we call it. This is the amount of blood the heart pumps with each beat. It goes from a normal of around 65 or 70% to maybe 40, 30, 20% sometimes. It actually causes heart failure. At the very basic level to getting Afib, your heart likely has an abnormality. Mostly these are scars on the heart. An enlarged left atrium can cause Afib for some reason, causing things like high blood pressure that isn’t treated, valvular heart disease, diseased heart valves that aren’t treated. Things like thyroid disease, lung disease can cause Afib. Some drugs can cause Afib if taken in excess or if not well monitored. Many things can cause afib. Unfortunately, as I said, atrial fibrillation is a distressing disease that at this point is a chronic disease and cannot be cured. While we can’t say we can heal it today, we absolutely can. It is a very manageable disease and with a good relationship with your cardiologist, as well as a good healthy lifestyle regarding your diet, exercise program, weight management and treating other conditions that can actually contribute to Afib like diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive Sleep apnea, then you can lead a completely normal life. My name is Layth Saleh and I am a cardiac electrophysiologist.
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