How to recognize atrial fibrillation

Particularly present in the elderly, atrial fibrillation is a health problem, which, if left untreated, increases risk of cerebral vascular accidents by up to five times.

Our heart beats at a frequency of between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Any abnormality in our heartbeat is called arrhythmias and can cause the heart to beat too slowly, too fast or chaotic. Many of these situations can become a threat to our well being, and even to our life. Atrial fibrillation is a quivering or irregular heartbeat.

According to statistics, women with atrial fibrillation are at greater risk of stroke than men.

Risk factors

People over the age of 60 who suffer from diseases such as heart failure, hypertension, asthma, diabetes, hyperthyroidism or alcoholism are at high risk of experiencing atrial fibrillation. This rhythm disorder is more common in the elderly, especially in the presence of other cardiovascular or lung diseases.

Palpitations, one of the most common symptoms

Feeling our heart beat too quickly and irregularly (palpitations), having difficulty breathing during physical exercise or strong emotions, fatigue, dizziness, fainting, angina – all are among the symptoms of atrial fibrillation. In some patients, the disease may be asymptomatic, doctors say.

Stroke, the most dangerous complication

Complications of atrial fibrillation (stroke, peripheral embolism, myocardial infarction) are determined by the appearance of a blood clot formed in the heart’s cavities. The most feared of them is, without a doubt, stroke (the risk of which is 5 times higher in those suffering from atrial fibrillation).

What tests can detect it

The electrocardiogram reproduces the electrical activity of the heart on paper, and it is among the most common investigations through which atrial fibrillation can be detected. If an episodic atrial fibrillation is suspected, the doctor may recommend the use of a heart rate monitor for a 24-hour period. The procedure is called a “Holter electrocardiogram”.

Specialist advice

A healthy lifestyle, proper nutrition, weight control, physical exercise, correct and careful treatment of diseases that might lead to atrial fibrillation are measures that can reduce the risk of developing this disease.

Therefore, it is recommended to avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or stimulants (energy drinks, drugs), maintain a normal body weight, keep stress levels as low as possible, and to treat any type of heart and lung disease as soon as diagnosed. The most common heart related conditions that often lead to the development of atrial fibrillation include valvulopathy, myocardial ischemia, high blood pressure, etc.

Also, if you experience any symptoms, even mild, it is recommended to pay a visit to a doctor and get an electrocardiogram done. Furthermore, since some patients are asymptomatic, in order to be safe it’s recommended that those over the age of 55 check their heartbeat at least once a month.

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