The Mayo Clinic says the older a person is, the greater his or her risk for atrial fibrillation.

The Mayo Clinic says the older a person is, the greater his or her risk for atrial fibrillation.

When working properly, the human heart is a wonder. The heart’s two upper chambers work in conjunction with the two lower chambers to deliver blood and oxygen to every area of the body. Sometimes the heart may beat irregularly and rapidly, in which a person is experiencing atrial fibrillation, commonly shortened to AF or “afib.”

There is no one cause of AF, which has been linked to a number of different heart conditions. These include, but are not limited to, hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, and pulmonary embolism. Hyperthyroidism and excessive alcohol consumption as well as pneumonia and certain lung conditions also may contribute to AF. The Mayo Clinic says the older a person is, the greater his or her risk for atrial fibrillation. Around 8 percent of the United States population over the age of 80 has AF.

Oftentimes a person can live with AF without any problems. However, there are some dangers in letting AF go untreated. Because the heart is beating irregularly, blood flow can be compromised and not pump efficiently. This can make the heart weaken and lead to heart failure. When the atria are not beating correctly, blood will not flow through them as quickly. This may cause blood to pool in the upper chambers and contribute to clot formation. If a clot dislodges and gets pumped into the brain, it can cause a stroke. The Cleveland Clinic says those with AFare five to seven times more likely to have a stroke than those without AF.

Treating AF may require a series of medications to prevent clots and reset the rhythm of the heart. Resetting the rhythm is known as cardioversion, which can be done with medication or through a brief electrical shock under sedation. Blood-thinning medications, such as Warfarin, may be prescribed. Such medications help the blood stay thin and prevent clotting. Routine checkups may be needed while taking a blood-thinner because small cuts can result in significant blood loss.

Drugs used to keep the heart rate normal and prevent future episodes of AF include sotalol, dronedarone, dofetilide, and amiodarone.

AFmay recur even when treatment is effective. It may take some time to get the right balance of treatment to prevent future bouts of AF, but there is no guarantee it won’t come back. Working in concert with a qualified doctor can make the process go more smoothly, and treatment with medication may need to continue throughout a person’s life.


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