Is Your Heart All A-Flutter? A Guide to Atrial Fibrillation
An irregular or rapid heart rate, also called atrial fibrillation, isn’t as harmless as it sounds. You may have experienced a brief bout of this if you overindulged in espresso or energy drinks, or if you’ve had a bit of flu or low blood pressure, but a chronic version of this condition can be deadly serious. Here’s a quick guide to atrial fibrillation, what it is, and what it means for your heart health.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
When your heart is experiencing atrial fibrillation, the two upper chambers beat at a chaotic and irregular rhythm rather than the steady thump-thump that we take for granted. This puts them out of sync with the lower chambers, disrupting blood flow to the brain and body.
Short bouts aren’t usually dangerous and the heart corrects itself fairly quickly, but occasionally, the atrial fibrillation doesn’t go away and becomes a more long-term issue. This is a high-risk situation for blood clots, stroke, heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, and heart attacks.
Symptoms and Causes of Atrial Fibrillation
Typical signs of atrial fibrillation include:
- Heart palpitations (a racing, uncomfortable heartbeat)
- Fatigue (especially when standing up, trying to exercise, or exerting yourself)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest discomfort or pain
Sometimes the symptoms aren’t very obvious, and some patients have barely noticeable symptoms and may not even realise that they are in atrial fibrillation until they are examined by a doctor.
The most common cause for this heart condition is an abnormality in the heart’s structure, either caused by a genetic or health condition, or by damage to the heart muscle. This includes:
- Suffering a heart attack
- Having coronary heart disease
- Structural abnormalities in the heart valves
- Having high blood pressure
- Having congenital heart defects
- Metabolic imbalance, including hyperthyroidism
- Viral infections
- Exposure to stimulants
- Suffering from sleep apnoea
- Having had heart surgery
Treatment and Prevention
Treatment differs depending on how severe the case is, and ranges from prescribed medications that help to control heart rate and reduce stroke risks to surgical interventions to correct physical abnormalities in the heart and heart valves. It’s best to see your doctor and get a referral to a cardiovascular specialist if you suspect you suffer from atrial fibrillation to get treatment and reduce your risks of heart attack, stroke, and SCA.
Preventing atrial fibrillation is all about supporting your heart health by being active, avoiding stress, limiting stimulants, eating healthily, and quitting smoking and/or excessive alcohol use. If you do suffer from this condition, it is more important than ever to commit to a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risks of dangerous complications. However, the risk of these occurring never fully goes away, so it’s also important to be prepared. One recommendation is to keep an automated external defibrillator (AED) nearby in your home and workplace, as this is the only way to restore a heartbeat if SCA occurs.
Affordable AEDs in Australia
DefibsPlus can supply you, your family, workplace, or community with state-of-the-art HeartSine AEDs. In addition, we offer defibrillator training through our HeartSmart Program, which includes online or in-person training for individuals and groups. To make this life-saving investment more affordable, we also offer a subsidy.
For more information on our HeartSine AED products and services or the DefibsPlus subsidy, call 1300 463 344 or use our online form to contact us today. Together, we can save lives.