Have you recently been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation? Hearing the doctor tell you that you have atrial fibrillation can change your life. You may feel scared, worried, confused, or upset. You may be surprised because you weren't experiencing any symptoms and the diagnosis came out of the blue. Questions about atrial fibrillation and what you can do may fill your head.
Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is the most common type of arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat or heart rhythm. Symptoms of AFib include palpitations (a rapid thumping in the chest), rapid heartbeat, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath (especially when exercising or with exertion), sweating, anxiety, and fatigue. You may experience one or more of these symptoms. However, some people with AFib do not experience any symptoms at all.
AFib is a serious condition because it can lead to complications such as stroke, heart failure, and hospitalization. It can have a great impact on your quality of life.
You may be relieved to hear that atrial fibrillation is a manageable and treatable condition. Most people with AFib live active, normal lives when they are appropriately treated.
Treatment for AFib includes taking medications, living a healthy lifestyle (e.g., eating healthy and exercising regularly), and preventing complications of AFib. After your diagnosis, your doctor may have recommended a treatment plan for you. It is important to follow this treatment plan to ensure you live a healthy life and to prevent stroke or heart failure.
Remember that you do not have to be alone during this time. There are resources you can go to for support and help, including:
- Your health care team. Your family doctor is a great source of information on AFib. If you are seeing a cardiologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating heart conditions) or an electrophysiologist (a cardiologist who specializes in the study of the electrical activities of the heart), talk to them for more information about AFib. They can also provide you with tips on what lifestyle changes you need to make to improve your heart health.
- Your family and friends. They can be a great source of emotional support. Talk to them about your concerns and feelings. They care about you and want to help you live an active life.
- Organizations, such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation. They are a good source of information and they can provide ways for you to get in touch with other resources, such as others who have AFib. They also have charity events to help raise money for heart disease research.
- Support groups. Talking (or chatting online) with others who have AFib can help you manage your condition. You can find out ways others have learned to live with AFib.
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