Prisma Health recognizes September as Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month
Atrial fibrillation is more common than you know
Atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common form of irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia, is expected to increase as the American population gets older. September has been designated as Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month. Prisma Health wants the community to be aware of how common AFib is and its signs and symptoms.
According to the American Heart Association, at least 2.5 million American adults are living with AFib. It is the most common type of sustained irregular heartbeat, in which the heart’s two upper chambers beat so quickly and irregularly that they are out of sync with the heart’s two lower chambers.
Although not directly life threatening, it produces a fast, irregular heart rhythm and can cause fatigue and contribute to additional heart problems over time, including heart failure. This uneven and rapid heart rate can increase patients’ chances of developing blood clots, increase risk of heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke and death.
“AFib is a serious condition, but can be managed effectively when patients and their health care providers are working together,” said Jennifer Feldman, MD, cardiologist, Palmetto Health-USC Cardiology.
About 15 to 20 percent of patients who have strokes also have this heart arrhythmia. Many people, however, don’t realize they have the condition. By recognizing the symptoms and treating AFib, patients can live longer, healthier lives.
According to the American Heart Association, signs of AFib include:
- Heart racing or fluttering.
- Light headedness.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Shortness of breath.
Feldman added, “It’s important for patients to know their bodies and be aware of when to seek help. Common symptoms are often overlooked. With the help of a physician you can create a plan of treatment that includes a range of options based on your individual needs.”
Some individuals with AFib, however, have no symptoms. For these people, it may be advisable to be checked for AFib by a health care provider if they have the risk factors for the condition.
Here are six risk factors that may increase the likelihood of having AFib:
- Age – the median age for patients with atrial fibrillation is 66.8 years for men and 74.6 years for women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Heart disease - clogged arteries increase the likelihood of the disease.
- High blood pressure – keep blood pressure under control to lower risk of AFib.
- Other chronic conditions – thyroid problems, sleep apnea, diabetes and other medical problems may elevate the likelihood of developing AFib.
- Drinking alcohol – too much alcohol can be a trigger for an episode of AFib.
- Family history – the condition may run in the family.
For more information about the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group or to schedule an appointment, call 803-434-3800 or visit PHUSCMG.org/Cardiology.
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