Heart Conditions: Understanding AFib

Understanding Afib with CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute

As the most common type of heart arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a heart condition that is estimated to affect up to six million Americans. People with AFib experience irregular heartbeat, but what does that really mean?

Normally, your body will send an electrical signal from the upper chambers of your heart (the atria) to the lower chambers (the ventricles) causing blood to pump from the atria to the ventricles and then out to your body. For people with AFib, these electrical signals trigger erratically, causing the heart to quiver, or fibrillate. The underlying cause of AFib can be one of many factors including age, other heart conditions such as high blood pressure or coronary artery disease, sleep apnea or even drinking alcohol or beverages with caffeine.

Blood thinners are a common treatment for AFib, and while they work well for many patients, for others they can cause unwanted side effects. Another option for AFib is a new technology, called the WATCHMAN. This is a permanent implantable device that closes off the heart’s left atrial appendage, which is the source of more than 90 percent of stroke-causing blood clots in patients with AFib.

“Patients are usually referred for the WATCHMAN procedure because they need an alternative to blood thinners,” says Dr. Tom Wallace with CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute. “When studied head-to­head against Warfarin, the WATCHMAN lowered the overall risk of stroke the same as if a patient was caking a blood thinner.”

Not every patient is a good candidate for the WATCHMAN procedure, but for those who are, it is a great solution.

Warning Signs of AFib:

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it might be time to ask your cardiologist about AFib treatment options.

> Heart palpitations

> Irregular or racing heartbeat

> Shortness of breath

> Fatigue or weakness

> Discomfort or funny feeling in the chest

This article was sponsored by CHI St. Vincent.

Read more about the CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute here »

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