A healthy heart beats a steady 60 to 100 times each minute. Sometimes an abnormal heart rhythm develops – characterized by an irregular heartbeat at a faster or slower pace.
Atrial fibrilliation -- commonly called AFib -- is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm. AFib varies in how long the episodes last and how frequently they take place. Common symptoms of AFib include:
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations -- a sensation that your heart is missing a beat or beating too fast or too hard
Your physician will discuss your symptoms, medical history and risk factors and will perform a physical exam.
The most reliable test for detecting AFib is an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). Other diagnostic tests that may help your doctor diagnosis an abnormal heart rhythm include:
- Exercise stress tests
- Cardiac catheterization
- An electrophysiology study (EPS)
- A head-up tilt-table test
- Lifestyle modification & treatment
Some people with arrhythmias require no treatment. Your physician may recommend these and other improvements to your lifestyle habits to reduce your risk for heart disease:
- Smoking cessation: if you smoke, quit.
- Avoid foods high in saturated and trans-fats and adopt a low-fat, low-salt diet.
- Avoid caffeine
- Monitor your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
- Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
- Manage your stress
Treatments may include:
- Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)
- Cardiac ablation
Long-term or frequent heart arrhythmias should not be ignored. Regular checkups by your primary care physician give you the best chance of effectively managing the disorder.