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Atrial Fibrillation: A Growing Epidemic 

Atrial fibrillation (afib) is a growing epidemic in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates there are 2.7-6 million individuals living with afib in the country. However, the American Heart Association (AHA) believes this number will grow to 12 million by 2050. That is a large portion of the US population. 

Afib is a condition caused when your heart is beating irregularly. There are a number of risk factors for afib including high blood pressure, prior heart disease, family history and age. 

When left untreated, or worse, undiagnosed, afib can potentially be indicative of an impending stroke. One in five individuals who suffer from a stroke also have afib, according to the AHA. 

How to Prevent Afib 

Unfortunately, there are some risk factors for afib that are completely out of our hands, such as age (at least until we have figured out how to stop getting older). However, there are certain habits we can practice that decrease our chances of afib affecting us. 

  • Maintain a healthy weight | Maintaining a healthy weight is great prevention for any form of disease, but especially afib. According to Harvard Health, overweight individuals have a 20-25% higher chance of afib, while obese individuals can have a 60% higher risk. 
  • Exercise| Aside from being a heart healthy habit, exercise is beneficial in reducing risk for afib and improving prognosis for patients diagnosed with afib. 
  • Alcohol Consumption| Bing-drinking (four or five alcoholic drinks) is known to be a big risk factor for afib, however, according to Harvard Health, even one to two drinks can affect a person’s risk of afib. Be mindful of your intake and practice finding a healthy balance. 

Treatment & Management of Afib

  • Compliance | The most common medication prescribed for patients with afib are anticoagulants, such as coumadin. Anticoagulants prevent blood clots from forming. When it comes to medication, one of the most important aspects is compliance. If you find yourself unable to be compliant with your medication, talk to your healthcare provider. 
  • Keep an open relationship with your doctor | A strong relationship with your physician can greatly impact how your afib is managed. Be sure to be open with your physician about symptoms, medication compliance, and any other symptoms that may be impacting your day-to-day life. 
  • Ablation | An ablation is a procedure that is utilized to regulate heart rhythm and correct any irregularities that may be occurring. The procedure involves using energy to destroy a small area of the heart tissue that could be leading to abnormalities in heart rhythm. Cleveland Clinic has found that 70-80% of individuals who undergo an ablation find massive improvement in afib symptoms. Talk to your doctor if an ablation could be right for you.

Your Afib Management Team

An electrophysiologist is a type of cardiologist who specializes in the rhythm of the heart. Your physician will likely refer you to an electrophysiologist if you are diagnosed with afib. First Coast Cardiovascular Institute (FCCI) houses two board-certified electrophysiologist, Drs. Cary Rose & Firas El-Sabbagh. Max Sapolsky, Physician Assistant, works rigorously with them as well. 

Dr. Firas El-Sabbagh 

His advice for patients: 

“When you start to feel symptoms, whether this is palpitations, shortness of breath or being more tired than usual, see you doctor. Don’t wait for symptoms to worsen as early intervention is very likely to prevent disease progression.” 

 

Dr. Cary Rose 

His advice for patients: 

“Afib can sometimes be asymptomatic. Many people with sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other chronic problems also have afib. Often times, patients find they have afib alongside other conditions when they see their doctor. This means it is important to not skip your visits to the doctor, even if you are not feeling any symptoms.”

 

Max Sapolsky, PA-C

His advice for patients:

“Stress can increase your blood pressure, which is a risk factor for afib. Take time out of your day to de-stress, whether this is an evening walk or spending time with your loved ones.”

 

To schedule an appointment with one of our electrophysiologists, contact us at 904.493.3333. 

 

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