What Causes an AFib Attack?
A heart attack is a surprise episode that leaves a person in immense pain--and in the hospital. However, there's another heart condition that everyone should be aware of: AFib attacks hospitalizes around half a million people every year in the US.
Not only is an AFib attack devastating, but it can also be perilous to your heart health. To make matters worse, an AFib episode functions very differently from cardiac arrest.
A misdiagnosis could very well put a person's life at risk--and end it without proper treatment. Therefore, it's important to understand what it is, and how it functions. Read on as we discuss what AFib is, and what causes AFib.
What Is AFib?
AFib is short for atrial fibrillation. This is the most common incidence of heart arrhythmia.
Arrhythmia has the same root as rhythm. So, naturally, arrhythmia is a lack of rhythm. It's when the heart beats in an irregular way--too fast or too slow.
Particularly, arrhythmia is when there is no coordination between the chambers of the heart. A normal heartbeat involves a unified motion with the heart muscles. Arrhythmia puts them out of sync, leading to a heart that pumps erratically.
AFib is more common than you may believe. In the US, at least 12 million people will have the condition by the year 2030. It has been the underlying cause of at least 26,000 deaths since 2019.
AFib is more common in those of European descent than those with ancestors from other regions, such as Africa. Unfortunately, this condition tends to affect women more often than men.
What Causes AFib?
Much of what causes AFib to come and go is dependent on your existing conditions. Many of them are genetic or inherited. Here are some common indicators that may lead to afib:
- Being advanced in age
- Being overweight or obese
- Having diabetes
- Having a history of heart disease or heart failure
- Having hypothyroidism
- Having high blood pressure
- Suffering from chronic kidney disease
- Using a moderate or heavy amount of alcohol
AFib and Stroke
Sadly, AFib only leads to more problems. Those with AFib experience an increase by a magnitude of five in the incidence of stroke. As evidence of this, AFib is the cause behind 1/7 of all strokes.
Further, strokes that have AFib as their central cause tend to be more extreme.
Reducing Risk Factors
Luckily, most of the items on this list leave your options open. Treating the above conditions is the surest way to reduce your likelihood of AFib incidence.
This means losing weight, keeping up with diabetes treatment, and adjusting your diet to reduce high blood pressure. Cutting smoking and drinking will also have a significant effect.
What Triggers an AFib Attack?
Even with these risk factors, certain activities can exacerbate your likelihood of AFib. Doing the following could increase your likelihood of having an AFib episode.
When you intake alcohol, this weakens your heart muscles. Weak muscles are less able to do their job--and more likely to go arrhythmic. Further, the dehydration that results from alcohol consumption is also a common cause of AFib.
Exercise is good for mitigating the risk of AFib. However, don't go overboard. Having an extreme exercise session could increase your likelihood of AFib, rather than decrease it.
Giving in to Stress
Stress is one of the biggest triggers in terms of heart health. It's essential that you manage your stress in whatever way you can. This means removing yourself from stressful situations and/or developing healthy coping habits to manage your emotions.
Getting Little or Insufficient Sleep
Sleep, like many medical conditions, is one of the most potent influencers behind good health. If you are not getting enough sleep, your risk of AFib will quadruple. Make sure that you are getting at least seven hours of sleep per night--or however much feels right for you.
Consuming Too Much Caffeine
Caffeine can be problematic for those who have heart issues. This is because caffeine accelerates your heart rate, which naturally increases the risk of arrhythmia.
This will depend on you individually. Some people would benefit from complete abstinence from caffeine. Others should limit their intake to much smaller amounts--and consume it less often.
How to Identify AFib Symptoms
Most people will experience symptoms similar to those of other heart issues. If you experience the following, you should see your doctor:
- Weakness or dizziness
- Low overall energy
- Irregular heart rate
- Random shortness of breath
You may consider getting a medical device that can keep track of your heart rate. If not, some smartwatches can help you track your heart rate throughout the day. The Apple Watch, for example, can identify the symptoms of arrhythmia.
How to Stop AFib
Changing your lifestyle is one of the easiest, most effective ways to improve your heart health. Even so, it's important to have options for AFib treatment regardless.
One of the best treatments for AFib is cardioversion. What is cardioversion? This is a treatment that uses electrodes to restore natural heart rhythm.
Think of this as a way to "teach" or "rehabilitate" your heart into having a proper rhythm. Repeat treatments may succeed in reducing your AFib symptoms--as well as the occurrence of AFib itself.
Check Yourself for AFib Symptoms Today
An AFib attack can put you in the hospital no different than /a heart attack. And like a heart attack, it has many similar symptoms and causes. Identifying the causes of your AFib will be crucial in treating and reducing your likelihood of incidence.
Follow our blog for more helpful tips to protect your health.