GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – If you find yourself short of breath often, you could be one of millions of Americans with atrial fibrillation, or afib for short.
Atrial fibrillation is a kind of irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots and cause strokes or heart attacks.
“It can make patients feel tired, short of breath, sometimes have chest pain and overall a sense that something’s not right,” says Bon Secours St. Francis Cardiologist Dr. Matthew Sellers.
Dr. Sellers says anyone with those symptoms should see a doctor right away because the longer you wait, the harder it is to treat it.
“It becomes irreversible if it’s not managed early,” he says. “If you’re a patient that has high blood pressure and sleep apnea and diabetes or heart failure or any combination of those problems, you’re at a much higher risk.”
If that description fits you, Dr. Sellers says you may benefit from a defibrillator, which can detect heart beat irregularities and send a shock to restore it to its natural rhythm.
This year, Bon Secours St. Francis was the first hospital system in the nation to use the latest defibrillator device to hit the market made by the company Biotronik.
“Their newest device is much smaller, has much higher battery longevity, and patients require less procedures to replace that battery,” Dr. Sellers says.
A recent study funded in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute shows that catheter ablations, which are minimally invasive procedures, are no more effective at preventing strokes or heart failure than drug therapies. However, it does show that ablations significantly decrease symptoms and increase quality of life.
“Exercise, diet, weight loss and controlling blood pressure and sleep apnea are probably the biggest things when it comes to managing afib,” he says.
If you are a high risk for afib, he also recommends keeping up with your annual physical exams and getting an EKG once a year.
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