Patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation are five times more likely to have a stroke due to risk of blood clots. The goal of AFib treatment is to control the heart’s rhythm and rate, while preventing blood clots. If left untreated, atrial fibrillation can lead to stroke or heart failure. It’s always best to seek immediate AFib treatment and its underlying condition irregular heartbeat from one of the most experienced cardiologists in NYC, best heart doctor Michael Ghalchi of Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates.
Atrial fibrillation is defined as an arrhythmia or an irregular heartbeat that originates in the upper chambers of the heart. This means that blood is often not transferred effectively from the upper to the lower chambers, which can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other complications.
Symptoms for atrial fibrillation, also called “AFib” or “AF,” may overlap with other cardiac conditions, such as:
- General fatigue
- Rapid and irregular heartbeat
- A sensation described as “fluttering” in the chest
- Feeling like your heart is thumping
- Dizziness or fainting
- Shortness of breath
- Mild confusion
- Fatigue when exercising
- Chest pain or pressure
The Different Types of AFib
Once your heart doctor in NYC has confirmed that you have atrial fibrillation, he’ll next decide if your symptoms put you into a certain classification of AFib:
- Paroxysmal Fibrillation describes episodes of arrhythmia that are intermittent, often lasting less than a week. Typically, patients with this type of atrial fibrillation experience their symptoms a few times a year. But it can also be unpredictable, turning into a more permanent form of AFib if left untreated.
- Persistent AFib means your heart goes into AFib for longer periods of time. At that point, it’s assumed that your heart needs assistance to get back to a regular sinus rhythm. AFib treatment and proper cardiovascular doctor evaluation is therefore required.
- Permanent AFib occurs when your heart doctor can’t correct your persistent AFib. At this point, your heart rhythm will likely not go back to normal, but your condition and symptoms can be managed with medications.
Prevent Stroke Risks with Blood Thinners
Those with atrial fibrillation, according to the cardiovascular doctors at American Heart Association, are nearly five times more likely to have a stroke due to risk of blood clots. Furthermore, left untreated, patients diagnosed with any form of AFib are twice as likely to die from a heart-related illness.
Unfortunately, of the nearly three million people with AFib, many don’t recognize how serious this disease is. And while AFib treatment ideally controls and mitigates your symptoms, it’s also important for your NYC cardiologist to control the risks of a stroke.
Blood thinners may not control your heartbeat, but they reduce your risk of having a stroke by 50 to 60 percent. And in recent years, the Food and Drug Administration has approved four new blood thinners, collectively called NOACs, that do not have the same kinds of interactions with other drugs as the long-standing blood thinner warfarin, also known as Coumadin.
Coumadin has been used effectively to prevent blood clots and strokes for more than 60 years. But the drug frequent monitoring and dosage adjustment, as well as strict adherence to a constant, specific diet. The newer drugs do not require monitoring and adjustment by cardiovascular doctor, and are not subject to fluctuations in effect based on one’s diet. Your NYC cardiology specialist may suggest these new drugs.
AFib Treatment Options
The goal in treating AFib is to control the heart’s rhythm and rate, while preventing blood clots. Once your heart is stable, your heart doctor or NYC cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates can attempt to correct any underlying conditions you may have that are triggering the irregular heartbeat. If necessary, there are several types of afib treatments for getting back a normal sinus rhythm:
- Electrical Cardioversion is a procedure for which the heart doctor uses paddles or patches to deliver a brief electrical shock to momentarily stop the heart so that when it resumes, it does so with a normal heartbeat and heart rate. You’re sedated during the quick procedure, so you shouldn’t feel the shock.
- Cardioversion with Drugs uses medications that are appropriately called “anti-arrhythmics.” They may be administered orally or intravenously at a hospital or in the office, where you can be monitored. Since the concern for stroke with AFib is fairly high, you may need to have a special ultrasound to be certain you don’t already have a blood clot. You may also be asked to take a blood thinner both before and after the procedure.
- Catheter Ablation is a procedure that heart doctors use when cardioversion doesn’t help restore normal sinus rhythm. Atrial fibrillation can be caused by areas of the heart that aren’t working in conjunction with the rest of the heart. Your cardiovascular doctor puts a catheter through the arm, groin or neck, and then he threads it to the heart, where a tiny electrode using radio frequency (RF) energy, cryotherapy (extreme cold) or high heat destroys the small areas causing the problem.
- Surgical Maze Procedure follows the same premise as a catheter ablation: that scar tissue can’t conduct electricity, so that tissue can’t interfere with the electrical pulses passing through the heart as it once did. This procedure is conducted during open heart surgery, where the heart doctor uses a scalpel, RF or cryotherapy directly to create the scar tissue.
- Atrioventricular Node Ablation (AV) is appropriate for those patients who haven’t responded to other methods. In this technique, scar tissue is created to build a block between upper and lower heart chambers to keep the section of the heart that is irregular from impacting the part of the heart that’s working properly. A pacemaker then needs to be installed to keep the lower chambers working properly. You’ll probably need to be on blood thinners following this procedure to prevent clotting.
Self-Care for Ongoing Management
Whether you undergo a procedure to treat your atrial fibrillation or not, there are definite steps you can take to minimize the risks associated with the disorder and to help you feel better. Various lifestyle changes help to improve your health overall and are specifically good for your heart health. For example, your heart doctor or NYC cardiology specialist may suggest changes to help treat heart disease and high blood pressure, that also help you manage your weight and infuse you with renewed energy. Follow your cardiologists or heart doctor’s recommendations closely when considering how drastic your changes should be, but consider:
- Exercising daily and adding intensity as you improve. Increased physical activity helps you manage your AFib symptoms and assist you in reaching other health-related goals.
- Eating a healthier diet that consists of high fiber, fruits and vegetables while reducing your intake of salt, fat and processed sugar. Salt is a real culprit of any cardiovascular illness, especially high blood pressure.
- Reducing your alcohol intake. Commonly recommended amounts for healthy adults are one 8-ounce drink a day for all women and for men over the age of 65. A man younger than 65 may indulge in two drinks a day as part of a healthy lifestyle.
- Quitting smoking. The carcinogens from tobacco damage all your blood vessels and make you a prime candidate for AFib.
- Monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol levels so that you can make adjustments when they are not in line with your optimum health.
- Treating underlying conditions such as sleep apnea which will reduce the likelihood of future episodes of atrial fibrillation
Visit your NYC cardiologist regularly when you have AFib so that your heart doctor can monitor your symptoms and tell if the lifestyle changes you’ve made and the medications you’re taking are working effectively. Cardiovascular doctors warn If left untreated, atrial fibrillation can lead to stroke or heart failure.
When dealing with AFib, follow your heart doctor’s directions and take the diagnosis seriously. For more information or to speak to a NYC cardiology specialist, contact us to make an appointment.
Dr. Michael Ghalchi, Cardiologist (Cardiologist NYC, Midtown)
New York, NY10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 686-0066