To manage atrial fibrillation (also known as AF or AFib), your doctor may recommend treatment that controls the heart rate. The goal of rate control is to improve symptoms, prevent heart muscle damage, improve your tolerance to exercise, improve quality of life, and avoid being hospitalized.
Rate control involves using medication that slows your heart rate and prevents a rapid heartbeat. Medications that slow the heart rate include beta-blockers (e.g., nadolol, propranolol), calcium channel blockers (e.g., diltiazem, verapamil), and digitalis (e.g., digoxin). Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of rate control medications with you.
Rate control medications are recommended for most people who have atrial fibrillation. For some people, rate control is enough to relieve the symptoms of atrial fibrillation.
It is important to take your medication exactly as your doctor or pharmacist recommended. Keep in mind that you may not always feel atrial fibrillation symptoms. Do not stop taking your medication without talking first to your doctor. Remember that your medications are also reducing your risk of developing long-term complications associated with atrial fibrillation.
You may experience side effects with medications that control heart rate. Some are mild and may go away as your body gets used to them. Some can be easily managed. Others may last longer and may be bothersome to you. If you experience any side effects or have any concerns about your treatment, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.