(BPT) - Every February, love is in the air. Equally as important as keeping your heart full of love is keeping your heart healthy, especially given that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. There are many types of heart disease, and most are progressive — meaning it will get worse if not addressed. One type of heart disease, called atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common type of heart rhythm disorders, with 1 in 4 adults at risk for the disease. During AFib, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat rapidly and irregularly, causing chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue, among potential symptoms.
The good news is, AFib is treatable in most cases when proper steps are taken, and strategies are put in place:
Promptly see your doctor or specialist if you have symptoms or experience any type of heart rhythm irregularity. It’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent the progression of AFib. AFib may be diagnosed by a primary care physician, cardiologist or electrophysiologist. Find a provider near you and make an appointment today. Don’t delay!
Keep track of your AFib symptoms. Download the AFib Symptoms Tracker to help stay on top of your symptoms and potential triggers. This will help to identify how often you are having episodes and will be a useful document to share with your doctor at your next visit.
Speak with your doctor to determine the right treatment option for you. Factors that may be considered in your treatment plan include: The nature or cause of the arrhythmia (where it starts in your heart), the severity of the arrhythmia and symptoms, medications, your age, overall health and medical history.
Seek regular visits with your specialist and routine health screenings. Proactively go to your specialist with questions or concerns and take charge of your medical condition. Be your own advocate, utilize online resources and familiarize yourself with information about your condition.
Expand your knowledge and find connections in the AFib community. The estimated number of individuals with AF globally in 2010 was 33.5 million. While this figure is staggering, know you are not alone, and that the disease can be treated. Get Smart About AFib is the largest online forum for patients with AFib — follow the GSAA Facebook page to join the AFib community and take part in the conversation.
For many patients, treatment begins with medication. Medications can be used for controlling your heart rate, rhythm and blood thickness, but about half of patients don’t respond to or can’t tolerate medications. Catheter ablation is a procedure to restore the heart’s incorrect electrical signals that cause an abnormal heart rhythm. It is recommended by the American College of Cardiology, the Heart Rhythm Society and the American Heart Association for patients when medication proves to be unsuccessful.
For Mark S., former music educator and choral director in the Jacksonville, FL, area, catheter ablation was recommended following a major stroke and subsequent hospitalization. He was officially diagnosed with AFib several years prior; around the time he first began experiencing symptoms and taking medication. Mark suffered multiple transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) during this period, triggered in an unpredictable fashion. “The medication I was given by different health care professionals just made me feel ill,” Mark said. “I felt like a zombie.”
After working closely with his cardiologist, Saumil R. Oza, MD, at Ascension Medical Group, St. Vincent’s Cardiology, to determine whether he was the right candidate for catheter ablation, Mark went forward with the procedure.
“Finding the treatment option best suited for you is a team effort,” said Dr. Oza. “It’s critical to note that experiences with AFib vary drastically from person to person. Some patients have severe and obvious symptoms, while others go undetected for years. Together, in collaboration with your specialist, you can identify a suitable treatment plan that is right for you. I’m elated for Mark and the success he found through ablation.”
Since undergoing catheter ablation, paired with healthy lifestyle modifications, Mark no longer experiences heart irregularities or discomfort. “I have reclaimed a sense of security and it’s an overwhelming relief. Dr. Oza gave me my life back,” said Mark.
To learn more about AFib and your treatment options, or to find an electrophysiologist near you, visit GetSmartAboutAFib.com.
© Biosense Webster, Inc. 2023
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. “Heart Disease in the United States.” CDC WONDER Online Database website. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2022. Accessed February 1, 2023.
 Lloyd-Jones, Donald M., et al. “Lifetime risk for development of atrial fibrillation: the Framingham Heart Study.” Circulation110.9 (2004): 1042-1046.
 Get Smart about AFIB, Biosense Webster Inc. “Your AFib Treatment Plan” Irvine, CA: Biosense Webster Inc. Accessed February 8, 2023.
 Morillo CA, Banerjee A, Perel P, et al. Atrial fibrillation: the current epidemic. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017 Mar;14(3):195-203.
 Calkins H, Reynolds M, Spector P, et al. Treatment of atrial fibrillation with antiarrhythmic drugs or radiofrequency ablation: two systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses. Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol. 2009 Aug;2(4):349-61.
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