Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an abnormal or quivering heartbeat that can cause heart failure, blood clots, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues. In the last 20 years, AFib has become a crucial public health concern.
With over 2.7 million Americans living with the condition, it is important to know how to recognize and manage it.
What most patients don’t realize is that atrial fibrillation is a progressive disease. This means you can experience paroxysmal AFib with symptoms that appear and disappear on their own.
But, if you don’t manage it, the complication can turn into a permanent or persistent AFib.
Permanent means the condition will remain despite management and treatment. While the persistent stages are serious but can be treated. Keep reading to find out more about persistent AFib and its impact on your overall health.
According to recent reports, permanent AFib occurs in about 50% of patients, and persistent and paroxysmal emerge in 25% of patients each. Although the odds are lower, you can still develop this type of heart arrhythmia.
To recognize persistent AFib, you should take a look at the symptoms. These include:
- Shortness of breath;
- Quickened heartbeat;
- Abnormal palpitations;
When the condition becomes chronic, these symptoms tend to appear every day.
For you to be diagnosed with persistent AFib, these symptoms would have to emerge at least for 7 days straight.
However, this heart arrhythmia can go unnoticed.
Some people are asymptomatic, meaning that they don’t develop any clear indications of AFib. Therefore, if you develop chest pain or are at risk of cardiovascular complications, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your heart health.
Is There Anything That Could Make Me Susceptible To Persistent AFib?
To know the risk factors of persistent AFib, you should be aware of the typical implications that might put you at risk of developing this heart arrhythmia. These include:
- Having someone in the family with AFib;
- Struggling with sleep apnea;
- Thyroid complications;
- Lung disease;
- Regular exposure to stress;
- Predisposition to heart attack;
- Severe infection;
- Caffeine or another type of stimulant overuse.
According to experts, incorporating healthy lifestyle habits and controlling chronic diseases could reduce the likelihood of developing persistent AFib. However, those with a pre-existing heart valve disorder are often more vulnerable to this type of heart arrhythmia.
How Can Someone Get Diagnosed With Persistent AFib?
Doctors will use a combination of physical exams. If you are already diagnosed with the condition, your primary health care provider will suggest that you monitor the state of the heart.
The primary diagnostics begins with an electrocardiogram (ECG). This is to help evaluate the AFib stage. During classic ECG tests, small electrodes are attached to the chest and arms to sense and record electrical signals traveling through the heart. This type of test often comes with regular hospital visits, long waiting lines, and not the most comfortable process.
Luckily, that’s not the only way how to do that. You can also measure your ECG anywhere and anytime on your own with personal ECG devices and connected apps. These solutions also within simple, fast, and effective heart measurements can detect heart abnormalities.
Then, you might have to do a:
- Blood test – this is to spot what’s causing the arrhythmia to worsen—for example, an overactive thyroid.
- Exercise stress test – this is the easiest and the most practical method of measuring the rhythm and rate of the heart. Physical activity will help the body pump more blood, therefore providing you with a clear analysis of the heart state.
- Chest X-ray – This method provides a clear insight into the valves and chambers of the heart. Your doctor can suggest this option if there is an underlying condition that impacts the heart function.
- Echocardiogram – this option uses sound waves to spot heart damage. This damage could be causing palpitations.
- Event recorder – the doctor can suggest you use a portable device to measure the AFib symptoms when they do appear. This can help you keep track of your current condition and set you on the right track.
How Can I Treat Persistent AFib?
Persistent AFib treatment relies on medication and other methods to calm the arrhythmia. But, only a doctor can suggest the best form of treatment.
Overall, you can expect to use medicine to control the heart rate.
Options like digoxin, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers are a practical method of slowing the quickened heart rate.
Then, there are the medications for managing the heart rhythm. They are meant to keep the rhythm in check. Products like flecainide, amiodarone, sotalol, and propafenone are the go-to choice. However, they are often accompanied by adverse events, such as upset stomach, exhaustion, and dizziness.
If the Persistent AFib has caused blood clots, then you would need to take blood-clotting medication.
This is to ensure that you decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke. Anticoagulants are recommended to patients at risk of blood clotting. But, these prescription medications need to be closely monitored.
Other treatment alternatives include surgical incisions to the heart for targeting overactive areas.
But, one of the easiest and probably the most recommended options are regular physical activity, a healthy diet, chronic disease control, and stress management.
Heart-healthy foods, such as leafy green veggies, whole grains, and fatty fish, can provide the system with all the nutrition it needs. Therefore, assisting with heart function. Physical activity is equally important. Since it gets the blood pumping, it enables better heart function and blood pressure. When you do an activity you like, you can ease the stress. These are all key elements in managing life with persistent AFib.