Atrial fibrillation is a form of heart arrhythmia or erratic heartbeat. There are electrical impulses that enable each part of the heart to beat harmoniously with the other parts. If an individual has atrial fibrillation, the electrical signals are disorganized which causes the atria to beat chaotically, thus disrupting with the normal flow of blood.
In some cases, the condition can lead to dangerous complications. One of the common complications are blood clots. Since atrial fibrillation disrupts with the blood flow via the heart, the blood pools in the upper chambers of the heart which leads to the formation of blood clots.
What are the indications?
It is possible to have atrial fibrillation without any evident symptoms. If the symptoms arise, it includes the following:
- Racing heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Even if the symptoms are not evident, atrial fibrillation can increase the risk for blood clots in the upper heart chambers. In case a blood clot forms, it can move throughout the body.
The symptoms usually depend on where the blood clot is lodged after it has broken off. The usual complication of blood clots in the heart linked to atrial fibrillation is stroke.
Prevention of blood clots for those with atrial fibrillation
In most cases of atrial fibrillation, they are detected during a routine electrocardiogram. This is a test used by the doctor to assess the electrical activity of the heart and can detect any irregularities including atrial fibrillation.
It is important to note that atrial fibrillation is not always dangerous. One can live his/her entire life without any complications. The risk for the complications can be lowered by following the recommended treatment to prevent blood clots from forming.
If diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, the doctor might prescribe blood thinners to lower the risk for blood clot formation. Other medications are also given to restore the normal heart rate and rhythm.
In some instances, the doctor might recommend electrical cardioversion to restore the normal heart rhythm.
Management of underlying conditions
The doctor might suggest treatment for any underlying conditions that contributes to atrial fibrillation such as heart disease, heart defects, pulmonary emboli, electrolyte abnormalities, thyroid issues, infections and drug or alcohol abuse.
Lifestyle and dietary changes
Healthy lifestyle choices can prevent the condition such as the following:
- Avoidance or cessation of smoking
- Regular exercise
- Limit the consumption of alcohol and caffeine
- A well-balanced diet while limiting the intake of saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol
Disclaimer / More Information
The information posted on this page on atrial fibrillation is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn how atrial fibrillation is managed, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.