Atrial Fibrillation - or AFib - is a common form of heart disease. It is an irregular heart rhythm that occurs in the upper chambers of the heart known as the atria. Fibrillation is a disordered fluttering of the heartbeat. In a normal heart, the sinoatrial node in the heart is responsible for creating the normal heart rhythm at 60-100 beats per minute. In someone with AFib, an episode of AFib would cause electrical impulses stem from random points within both atria, causing rapid heart beats upwards of 400 beats per minute.
Some patient complaints have included:
- “My heart flip-flops, skips beats, and feels like it’s banging against my chest wall, especially if I’m carrying stuff up my stairs or bending down.”
- “I was nauseated, light-headed, and weak. I had a really fast heartbeat and felt like I was gasping for air.”
- “I had no symptoms at all. I discovered my AF at a regular check-up. I’m glad we found it early.” *
Blood that is not moving at normal speeds tends to clot at random places within the blood vessels. With AFib, your blood does not flow in strong pulses, instead the atria flutter only allows small amounts of blood to flow into ventricles at a time. With blood pooled in the atrium, blood clots are likely to form in these areas. If one of the clots were to be released into the bloodstream and find itself in the brain, a stroke could result, making AFib a serious heart condition that should be treated quickly. Another risk occurs because ineffective heart beats make the heart weaker and weaker, eventually reaching points of congestive heart failure.
People with moderate to severe sleep apnea are four times more likely to suffer from AFib than one without sleep apnea. The episodes of sleep apnea may even be triggers to cause episodes of AFib.
When you have both sleep apnea and AFib, treating both conditions is necessary to prevent stroke. Heart and Health Medical offers easy ways to be tested for both sleep apnea and AFib, and can set up treatment plans once a diagnosis is made. When sleep apnea is diagnosed and treated promptly, chances of AFib improvement are almost doubled, from an 80% chance of AFib recurrence to only 40%.
By: Jennifer LaBombard