Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a common heart rhythm disorder, affecting 2.7 million people in the US, but the CDC predicts that this number will jump to 12.1 million by 2030.
To shed some light on these rising numbers, the team here at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists is taking this opportunity to discuss the factors that place people more at risk of AFib, with an eye toward prevention. Although we’re able to manage AFib, we feel it’s a problem that’s best avoided given that the condition greatly increases your risk for heart-related death or stroke.
To get started, let’s take a look at what happens in your heart when you have AFib and six of the more common conditions that lead to this type of arrhythmia.
The cause of AFib
Your heart is made up of four chambers — the two upper atria and the two lower ventricles — that receive your blood, deliver it to your lungs for oxygenation, and then pump your blood back out into circulation.
With AFib, the upper chambers in your heart beat irregularly, which affects how well your lower ventricles function. As a result, your blood isn’t flowing properly through your heart and throughout the rest of your body.
AFib can come and go, or it can be constant, and the primary signs of the condition are heart palpitations that are often accompanied by lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Six risk factors for AFib
One of the primary reasons why the prevalence of AFib is on the rise is because, quite simply, we’re living longer. Of course, there isn’t much that we can do about aging, but there are other factors that contribute to the development of AFib that are well within your power to mitigate, including:
1. High blood pressure
Nearly half of adults in the US have high blood pressure, which is a condition that you can change through diet and exercise. For example, removing salt from your diet and getting a little exercise can go a long way toward bringing your blood pressure numbers down.
2. Coronary artery disease
This problem is typically caused by atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque and fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Here again, diet and exercise can play a significant role in offsetting coronary artery disease, especially reducing the amount of fat in your diet.
Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and certain medications can affect the rhythm of your heart. To keep your heart beating regularly, we recommend that you quit smoking and limit your alcohol and caffeine intake.
One in 10 people in the US has diabetes, which can have a major impact on the function of your heart because of high levels of glucose in your blood. If you have diabetes, we strongly recommend that you follow your diabetes treatment plan to the letter to limit blood vessel damage.
5. Sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that goes far beyond snoring. Sleep apnea can increase your blood pressure and put you at risk for developing arrhythmias like AFib. Thankfully, you can take steps to combat sleep apnea, including CPAP machines and oral devices.
One in three Americans is considered obese, which can have a significant impact on your cardiovascular health, including the development of AFib. The CDC points out that losing just 5-10% of your body weight can greatly improve your cardiovascular health.
If, despite your best efforts, you still develop AFib, rest assured, we can provide you with the treatments you need to re-establish a normal heart rhythm. To learn more, contact our office in Mountain View, California.