Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat, also called an arrhythmia, that can increase your risk of heart failure, stroke, blood clots and other heart conditions. A normal heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat, but if you have atrial fibrillation, the atria (upper chambers) beat out of sync with the ventricles (lower chambers). This can cause blood to pool in your atria, causing blood clots that travel to your brain and cause a stroke which a cardiologist could help you with.
Loading the player...Atrial Fibrillation and Treatment Options Dr. Peter Guerra, MD, FRCPC, Cardiologist-Electrophysiologist, talks about Atrial Fibrillation and the various treatment options available depending on the type of AF.
Loading the player...AFib and the Importance of Compliance to Blood Thinners Dr. Atul Verma, MD, FRCPC, Cardiologist, Southlake Hospital, Toronto discusses why it's so important for AFib patients to be compliant to their blood thinners.
Loading the player...The Link Between Poor Sleep and Atrial Fibrillation Cathy Seabrook, RN, Nurse, Arrhythmia Clinic Southlake Regional Health Centre, talks about the link between poor sleep, including sleep apnea, and atrial fibrillation.
Loading the player...Managing Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke Prevention With Your Family Physician Dr. Daniel Ngui, BSc (P.T), MD, CFPC, FCFP, Family Physician, talks about why it's important for your family physician to help you manage atrial fibrillation and stroke prevention.
Loading the player...The Link Between Atrial Fibrillation and Alcohol Consumption Cathy Seabrook, RN, Nurse, Arrhythmia Clinic Southlake Regional Health Centre, talks about the link between alcohol consumption, dehydration and Atrial Fibrillation.
Loading the player...Taking Control of Atrial Fibrillation Through Healthy Living Nicole Gorman, MN-NP(F), CCN(C), Nurse Practitioner, discusses how patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation can take control of their condition through healthy living, diet and exercise.
The usual treatment for atrial fibrillation – that is, for the symptoms of atrial fibrillation, is designed to make the patient feel better. And this treatment usually revolves around one of two kinds of treatments. One is treatment to slow down the heartbeat, in other words to make it less rapid and less irregular. That makes most patients feel better. That strategy of slowing down the heartbeat is called rate control. That strategy does not necessarily require the heart rhythm to be restored to normal.
There’s a second strategy called rhythm control, and this strategy involves treatments to get the heartbeat back to beating normally. It may sound sensible to always want to get the heart beating regularly again, but that is not always easily achieved.
The initial treatment in most cases, when the heart is beating fast and irregularly, is to slow it down with medications that are relatively easy to take, and really quite safe. That is the rate control strategy. The rhythm control strategy involves getting the heartbeat regular and back to normal.
That may require medications, so-called antiarrhythmic drugs, whose purpose it is to either restore the heartbeat back to normal or to prevent the irregular heartbeats from coming back if the heartbeat is back to normal again. Another type of treatment is called cardioversion, and these are small, very safe, electrical shocks to the heart, delivered to a patient who’s briefly put to sleep. The cardioversion restores a normal rapid heartbeat.
The third type of treatment, which many patients have heard about nowadays, is called ablation, and this is a way of putting wires inside the heart and making small burns inside the heart to get rid of the electrical short circuits that cause atrial fibrillation, in an attempt to prevent the problem from recurring. Ablation can be very effective, but it isn’t effective in all patients.
If you have atrial fibrillation and you don’t feel well, or you need more information, or you’re not completely satisfied with your treatment, speak to your family doctor. If needed, ask to be sent to a cardiologist who has expertise in atrial fibrillation and get yourself as well informed as possible about this condition so that you understand your own body, and you can deal with the symptoms more effectively.
Presenter: Dr. Paul Dorian, Cardiologist, Toronto, ON
Local Practitioners: Cardiologist
Patients often ask me: I have atrial fibrillation, should I be worried about lifestyle, are there things I should do or I shouldn’t do? The most important thing for patients to understand about atrial fibrillation and lifestyle is as follows.
First, coffee is safe in atrial fibrillation, there’s no reason not to drink coffee, and the scientific evidence if anything shows that coffee protects you from atrial fibrillation, doesn’t cause atrial fibrillation. Of course, if you drink too much coffee it can cause anxiety or palpitations, but it has nothing to do with the atrial fibrillation.
The second question importantly is about alcohol. Alcohol in excess definitely can cause atrial fibrillation, and all patients with atrial fibrillation should avoid alcohol in excess. Small amounts of alcohol, for example, one standard drink or one or two glasses of wine a few times a week are not harmful, they’re not a problem, and you can safely have alcohol as long as it’s in moderation.
Exercise is safe in atrial fibrillation. Of course, if you’re exercising, riding a bike or running or doing a sport and you have atrial fibrillation and you’re dizzy or you’re short of breath then you need to slow down or perhaps stop. But for most patients, regular activity and exercise is perfectly safe.
You can play sports, you can go for walks, you can play tennis or whatever is your favourite activity. You’re able to do it, furthermore, the more exercise you do, the less likely it is you are to have atrial fibrillation recurrences for most patients. Exercise is recommended, and it is safe under most conditions; if you’re not sure, ask your doctor.
Let’s talk about diet and atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is not directly related to diet, in the sense of the kinds of the foods that you eat or the supplements or vitamins, it really doesn’t matter. It is absolutely true that patients that are overweight or obese are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation and it’s going to bother them more than individuals that are of normal weight.
Very good research tells us, that if you have atrial fib and you’re overweight and you manage to lose weight, largely through diet and exercise, you will have less atrial fibrillation, and you will feel better, and be less bothered.
Lastly, patients often tell me, stress is something I want to avoid, I think my stress level is high, should I be worried about stress and atrial fibrillation, and the answer is stress does not cause atrial fibrillation. Of course, if you’re stressed and you have atrial fibrillation it will bother you more. Anything bothers you more if you’re stressed. But stress by itself doesn’t cause atrial fibrillation, and avoiding stress, although it’s of course a good thing, will not prevent you from having more atrial fibrillation.
So the bottom line is if you have atrial fib you can just lead your life as normally as you can. You may not be able to do everything you would like to be able to do, but there’s no reason to restrict your life in terms of diet, in terms of activity, in terms of alcohol – in moderation, in terms of coffee. Just lead a completely normal life.
If you have atrial fibrillation and you don’t feel well, or you need more information, or you’re not completely satisfied with your treatment, speak to your family doctor. If needed, ask to be sent to a cardiologist who has expertise in atrial fibrillation, and get yourself as well informed as possible about this condition so that you better understand your own body and you can deal with the symptoms more effectively.
Presenter: Dr. Paul Dorian, Cardiologist, Toronto, ON
Local Practitioners: Cardiologist
When you’re prescribed a medication for your atrial fibrillation, particularly blood thinners, it’s very, very important to take the medications as prescribed. Some people, when they feel better, are tempted to either stop taking their medication, or perhaps miss a dose or two, and that’s a natural tendency. But it’s very important to realize that if you discontinue these medications, especially the blood thinners, you are putting yourself at higher risk of being in hospital, or having a stroke, or having some other important event.
So it’s critical to take your medications as prescribed, and if you want to consider a change to the medication, or if you’re wondering if you need to continue taking the medications, please consult with your doctor or health care provider first, before making that decision on your own.
To improve adherence to your drug therapy, there are a number of things that you can do. Reminders, for example, programmed into your cell phone can be very useful to help remind you to take your medications. For people who are on multiple medications, pill boxes or dosettes provided by your pharmacist could be very useful.
You can also talk to your doctor about trying to rationalize your drug regimens, to reduce the number of pills you have to take, but also the number of times a day that you have to take them. So trying to choose therapies, for example, that are taken once a day rather than twice or three times a day.
And also remembering whether or not you have to take your drugs with or without food. And depending on that, being able to plan your drug therapies either around mealtimes or before mealtimes at specific times when you’re going to remember to take them on a daily basis. If you want more information about ways that you can improve your adherence to your drug regimen, you can talk to your physician, your nurse practitioner, your specialist and especially your pharmacist.
Local Practitioners: Electrophysiologist