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More than 5 million Americans have atrial fibrillation (AF). The odds of developing AF increase with age: Nearly 4% of people over age 60 and 9% of those over 80 have atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of supraventricular tachycardia, a heart condition in which the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly and too fast because they receive extra, "abnormal" electrical signals. This causes the atria to quiver (fibrillate), affecting the heart's ability to pump blood to the body. As a result, your brain and other organs may not be getting the full blood supply they need.
AF is a dangerous medical condition that becomes more difficult to treat over time. AF can lead to irreversible heart damage. It can also lead to the formation of blood clots inside the heart, which may lead to a stroke.
It is unlikely your doctor can pinpoint just one cause of your AF, but there are certain risk factors that increase your chances of developing AF. These include:
Some patients have no sensation at all that their heart is fibrillating. Others experience symptoms that include:
AF can be detected through an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) that records electrical signals generated by the heart. A Holter monitor may also be worn for one or more days to detect AF.
AF therapy is aimed at reducing the patient's risk of stroke, relieving symptoms and trying to prevent further weakening of the heart. Unfortunately, there is no single treatment strategy that has been shown to be effective for all patients with AF.
There are several therapies that may be used alone or in combination. The choice of treatment depends upon:
At Dignity Health Heart and Vascular Institute of Greater Sacramento, our treatment options include:
Your doctor will help you decide which drug is right for you.
Take a moment to listen to the amazing story of our patient, Edith and her journey back to a healthy heart with Dignity Health’s cardiac expert Dr. O’Neill.