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What Is Atrial Fibrillation? Why Do I Feel as Though My Heart Is Racing?

What Is Atrial Fibrillation? Why Do I Feel as Though My Heart Is Racing?

Heart arrhythmias cause your heart to beat too quickly, too slowly, or irregularly, disrupting vital blood flow through the heart chambers. Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart arrhythmia, projected to affect about 12.1 million people in the United States by 2030.

Muthu Velusamy, MD, FACC, ABVM, and his team at Cardiovascular Institute of America offer state-of-the-art cardiac care for the communities in and around Tampa and Lutz, Florida, including diagnosing and treating heart rhythm disorders like atrial fibrillation. 

Here’s what you need to know about atrial fibrillation and why you shouldn’t ignore a racing heart.

How does atrial fibrillation affect my heart?

During episodes of atrial fibrillation, the upper heart chambers (atria) beat irregularly and out of sync with the lower chambers (ventricles). As a result, rather than contracting, the upper chambers quiver or shake, causing blood to collect in the atria and increasing your risk of clots that can lead to a heart attack or travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation can include:

These symptoms may come and go, lasting from a few moments to hours, or they could become continuous, occurring for 12 months or longer.

What causes atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is most common in adults over 55 and may be related to:

Diabetes, chronic lung disease, kidney disease, and other long-term conditions that affect your heart health also increase your risk of developing atrial fibrillation. In addition, intense emotional stress increases your risk of atrial fibrillation.

How do you treat atrial fibrillation?

Treatment for atrial fibrillation includes restoring a normal heart rhythm and identifying and treating the underlying cause of the arrhythmia. 

During your initial evaluation at Cardiovascular Institute of America, your specialist completes a thorough physical exam and asks detailed questions about your symptoms, medical and family history, and medication/supplement use. 

You may also benefit from diagnostic studies such as nuclear stress testing or cardiac event monitoring to confirm or rule out the cause and type of your heart rhythm disorder. Depending on your symptoms and risk factors, your specialist may recommend a transesophageal echocardiogram to check for blood clots or other cardiac concerns.

Your treatment strategy may include restoring a regular heart rate and rhythm with medication or a noninvasive electrical cardioversion procedure. Some people require a pacemaker or internal defibrillator to overcome the effects of atrial fibrillation. Your specialist may also maximize treatment for hypertension, heart disease, and other chronic conditions contributing to the arrhythmia.

Schedule an evaluation at Cardiovascular Institute of America today for outstanding cardiac care that’s customized to fit your needs. Call the office near you, or request an appointment online.

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