LANSING, Mich. — If you don’t know someone who has experienced Atrial Fibrillation, commonly referred to as AFib, odds are you will at some point. Estimates show more than 12 million people may be affected by AFib by the year 2050 1,2,3.
AFib is a very common heart rhythm disorder that can have a major impact on your quality of life, leaving you feeling fatigued with shortness of breath and an increased heart rate, and lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart failure.
With that in mind, here are three things you need to know when it comes to AFib and your health:
The population facing AFib is changing
In the past, AFib was a disease mostly found in older populations, but McLaren Greater Lansing Cardiologist Khalil Kanjwal, M.D., FHRS CCDS, FACC, says that’s changed, and he’s seen patients as young as 40 with AFib.
“The increase is due to people not eating healthy, not exercising, and not managing other conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and sleep apnea,” said Dr. Kanjwal.
You could have AFib and not know it
Those experiencing AFib sometimes have a rapid heart rate, or palpitation. Depending on the individual, the palpitation may occur as infrequently as every six months, monthly or in some cases, or they may be in AFib at all times.
“When someone is having a rapid heart rate, they will feel like their heart is out of sync and they’ll tell you their heart feels fast or irregular,” said Dr. Kanjwal. “People with AFib are unique because some may have no symptoms. There is a large group of people who may not know they are in AFib and I worry about them because they are at risk of stroke.”
There are many advanced treatment options available
Many patients with AFib are prescribed blood thinners to help reduce their risk of stroke. In addition, there are rhythm control medications used to control atrial fibrillation, but over time these medications can have side effects and negatively affect the patient’s eyes, liver, lungs, skin, and thyroid.
“Regardless if AFib patients have symptoms or not, they need to be treated with blood thinners. I stress this with all my patients and take it seriously because I don’t want any of my patients to have a stroke,” said Dr. Kanjwal. “People who have symptoms will benefit from undergoing an ablation procedure, which is the most effective way of controlling AFib.”
Thankfully, a talented electrophysiology team under the leadership of Dr. Kanjwal is helping more patients than ever through a procedure called a catheter ablation. The procedure is used to electrically isolate the areas with electrical signals within a patient’s heart that cause AFib. The minimally invasive surgery utilizes a catheter that is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin, then carefully advanced up to the heart and used to scar or destroy tissue that is causing incorrect signals in the heart.
You can expect a very short recovery period after the procedure. Most patients spend 24 hours in the hospital, have very few restrictions once home, and can go back to work within one to two days.
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