Fiona and I had the pleasure of attending the European Society of Cardiology conference 2020 remotely, where many newly updated guidelines were launched. We were particularly interested in the new guidelines on atrial fibrillation. For the first time, aggressive risk factor management has been identified as a key component of the management of atrial fibrillation. We have implemented this in our practice over the last 3 years and are delighted that our interventions have now been validated.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular rhythm of the heart.
How do I know if I have Atrial Fibrillation?
Sometimes you might not feel anything but if you take your pulse and see if it irregular that would indicate that you may have atrial fibrillation. We have prepared a short video for you to learn how to take your pulse to assess if you have atrial fibrillation.
Be aware that if you do not feel any symptoms with atrial fibrillation, you will still need to get to be treated as you are at risk of a stroke or heart failure.
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation:
- Fatigue that is not related to activity.
- A fatigue that is variable – this means that some days you may be extremely tired and some days you are back to normal. This means that the atrial fibrillation may be coming and going.
- Breathless – you may feel quite breathless on exertion.
- Confusion or faint-headedness.
What can you do to help manage your Atrial Fibrillation?
Looking at your specific risk factors is important to managing atrial fibrillation.
- Obesity – this is a considerable risk factor and a 10% reduction in your weight will lead to a significant improvement in first of all how the atrial fibrillation affects you but also reduce the risk of recurrence.
- Sleep apnoea: This is when your breathing is altered overnight. You might snore excessively. Also with this sleep disorder, you may have excessive daytime sleepiness. If you are on treatment for sleep apnoea e.g. on a CPAP machine or other breathing device you need to ensure that the settings on the device are optimised.
- Diabetes – your blood sugars need to be managed well in the context of atrial fibrillation.
- Alcohol intake reduction.
- Smoking cessation.
There were some clear images at the conference clearly illustrating the life time journey of atrial fibrillation.
This slide clearly illustrated the life time risk of atrial fibrillation and how the progression to remodeling of the atrial chambers of the heart remodel.
I have included a nice image that may help in understanding the structures of the Heart.