Dispelling the Common Myths About AFib
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Many rumors and outdated information exist about the condition, so let’s get the facts straight and separate truth from fiction. Here are nine common myths about AFib:
1. AFib Only Affects the Elderly
While the likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation increases dramatically with age, young people can have the condition as well. It is more likely to arise in the presence of heart damage or disease among younger individuals.
2. Once Your Heart Rhythm Goes Into AFib, It Beats Abnormally for the Rest of Your Life
AFib may arise one time for just a few moments, sporadically, or continue long-term. With proper treatment, most people who have AFib develop a normal heart rhythm. In the case of chronic atrial fibrillation, medication is needed to maintain a normal rate and rhythm.
3. The Only Treatment for AFib Is Medication
While the most common treatment for atrial fibrillation is medication, additional therapies are sometimes needed.
Cardioversion is a planned intervention and treatment used to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. It may be used in emergency situations when atrial fibrillation is severe and the victim is experiencing the treat of cardiovascular collapse.
A temporary or permanent pacemaker may need to be inserted as a treatment for atrial fibrillation. New permanent pacemakers are available that utilize minimally-invasive techniques. They only take 15 minutes to be inserted.
A surgical procedure called ablation may be required to treat AFib if other techniques fail.
4. People Who Have AFib Should Not Go on Long Trips
Most people who have been diagnosed with AFib can travel safely. If you suffer from atrial fibrillation, check with your health care provider well in advance of a planned trip. By seeing your doctor in advance of your trip you will have time to be screened for potential health problems, complete medical tests if indicated, and ensure that you have effective medical treatment.
If you take warfarin, get blood tests done prior to departure. Learn where your PT/INR blood tests can be conducted while you are away. You can purchase testing units for home and travel, which will afford you with opportunities to do your own testing so you will not need to take time out for going to a lab for frequent tests.
While traveling, it is important that you stay hydrated and move around as often as possible. If you will be seated for long periods, change your position often. On road trips, stop, and get out of your car for a walk around every few hours.
5. People Who Have AFib Can’t Fly in Planes
Air travel is perfectly fine for most people who have AFib. While high altitudes may increase your chance of developing an irregular heart rhythm, this is unlikely to occur while flying on a commercial jet. Pressurized cabins compensate for the effects of changes in altitude. Consult with your cardiologist before flying.
Next page: four more myths about AFib set straight