Healthbeat 4: Knowing the signs of Atrial Fibrillation

Updated: Sep. 27, 2022 at 9:30 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, tiredness, and a fast heartbeat when doing daily tasks... don’t ignore it. You could be living with AFib or Atrial Fibrillation.

That is the advice from Dr. Mohammad El Baba with MercyOne Siouxland’s Heart and Vascular Center.

“The most common and most important risk is stroke. So because it is a condition where the top chambers of the heart start to shake instead of contract, so blood tends to stagnate, forming a clot. So a patient at risk of stroke is usually started on blood thinners. And also AFib can cause, with time if the heart beats regular, not fast, that can lead to heart failure as well,” said Dr. El Baba.

AFib typically develops later in life, around 50 to 60 years of age.

According to the CDC, more than 454,000 hospitalizations with AFib as the primary diagnosis happen each year in the United States. It contributes to about 158,000 annual deaths.

Dr. El Baba highlights one treatment to restore sinus rhythm in the heart -- which he says studies show can decrease mortality, heart failure, and hospitalization if successful.

“We have two ways to do that. Either medications or ablation. Ablation is an invasive procedure where we go from the groin to the heart, we look for the area where that comes from, and we burn that area,” said Dr. El Baba

Dr. El Baba points out some patients are asymptomatic. They won’t know they have AFib until a doctor listens to their heart or they receive further testing -- like visiting the ER for chest pain. That is why it is important to listen to your body and know the signs of life-threatening conditions.

Dr. El Baba says there are some underlying risk factors that can lead to developing AFib. Those include high blood pressure or undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea.