Dr. Wilbur Su, Banner health director of cardiac electrophysiology says atrial fibrillation or AFIB is an abnormal heart rhythm. It is basically having a normal rhythm taken over by irritable triggers and causing the heart to race away out of control.
Dr. Wilbur Su says AFIB because it is so prevalent as we age, and is such a cause for morbidity and mortality to loved ones, because stroke is so devasting and is the leading cause of stroke and heart failure. He says by being more aware we can make the diagnosis quicker and avoid these complications.
Emily asks when a lot of folks start to feel the symptoms of AFIB why is it very often mistaken for just aging? Dr. Wu says it’s because AFIB strikes everybody a little differently. For some it is very symptomatic, and they know exactly that the episode has started, it can come and go and for some they can actually be minimal systematic. Sometimes they are just fatigued, they can’t do what they use to do, they have shortness of breath, and they have milder symptoms, so they just think that maybe they are just getting older, and they try to just write it off.
You shouldn’t write it off. Dr. Wu says even for people who don’t feel as symptomatic often those are the ones we worry about most because they try and push it off because they think it is part of aging and the next thing you know the first presentation may be a stroke in the emergency room. Then, he says, we make the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. It can cause palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue. It is really a leading cause of stroke, heart failure and even dementia.
What are the treatment options? Dr. Wu says once they make the diagnosis, it’s important to think about what the risk of stroke is, and we think about medication that thins out the blood so we can minimize the risk for stoke and there are medications they use to press the irritable spots. He says unfortunately, because it is a progressive disease, medication that use to work may fail and the success rate is not that great for drugs, but the good thing is that over the past several decades options have been perfected. There are minimally procedures that can be used to get to the irritable triggers in the heart and essentially frees it up. That is a very low risk procedure to try and to alter the course of AFIB. And as we cure it, it is now considered the first line of treatment by the FDA even before we try drugs.
For more information go to Medtronic.com/afib