We usually don’t associate our hearts with electricity. However, this muscle has a complex electrical system that coordinates the pumping actions between all four chambers of your heart. When it functions properly, your heart beats in a regular rhythm. If something goes awry with the electrical system, the chambers beat out of sync, causing an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia.
Atrial fibrillation, often referred to as AFib, affects nearly 2.5 million Americans, making it the most common form of arrhythmia. Unfortunately, it’s also surrounded by misinformation, which interferes with people getting the treatment they need.
Our team at Peak Heart & Vascular provides innovative and compassionate cardiovascular care from our six Arizona locations, including therapies for atrial fibrillation. Here are six common myths we hear about this type of arrhythmia on a regular basis.
MYTH 1: I’m too young to have AFib
It’s true that atrial fibrillation becomes more common once you reach 70, and most cases occur in people 80 and older. However, anyone, at any age, can experience atrial fibrillation — even someone under age 55.
MYTH 2: It only happened a couple times and then went away
Unfortunately, AFib is usually a chronic condition requiring long-term treatment to reduce your risk of symptoms and serious complications, like heart failure and stroke.
In the early stages, atrial fibrillation episodes can seem sporadic and stop on their own. You can also have Afib with barely noticeable or nonexistent symptoms. But, with time, episodes often become more pronounced, frequent, and last longer.
MYTH 3: I still have symptoms, so my medication isn’t working
This myth is actually true and false.
When we prescribe medication for atrial fibrillation, the goal is to decrease the frequency and duration of your episodes, but they may not go away entirely. As a result, you can still have occasional symptoms. However, it’s also possible for atrial fibrillation medications to grow less effective over time. If this occurs, we explore other treatment strategies, like ablation.
MYTH 4: I had ablation, so I don’t need medication
If you undergo ablation, we use heat or cold energy to block the faulty electrical signals causing your abnormal arrhythmia. This process has 70-80% success rates, and they jump to 90% after additional treatments, if you have no signs of heart disease. But, even if ablation works, you could still need medication, depending on your condition and risk for complications like stroke.
MYTH 5: I can’t exercise because of AFib
Looking for an excuse to skip the gym? Most people can’t use atrial fibrillation. However, you need to make sure your heart rate doesn’t get too fast. To play it safe, talk to your doctor to learn how to exercise safely with AFib, so you can protect your overall health by staying active.
MYTH 6: AFib can be cured
This is another myth that’s both true and false. For example, certain things can cause AFib episodes, such as:
- Thyroid disorders
- Alcohol or binge drinking
- Sleep deprivation
If you address these factors, atrial fibrillation often goes away. However, you can also have underlying causes for AFib that can’t be cured, like coronary artery disease. However, in these cases, we can still manage your arrhythmia so you can enjoy a better quality of life.
Never ignore heart rhythm changes. Contact Peak Heart & Vascular today. Call to book a visit at the office most convenient to you — in Surprise, Avondale, Flagstaff, Laveen, or Phoenix — or request an appointment online.