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How An Atrial Fibrillation Screening Can Help Prevent a Stroke

How An Atrial Fibrillation Screening Can Help Prevent a Stroke

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common heart arrhythmia, affecting at least 2.7 million people in the United States as of right now, but the CDC expects this number to rise to more than 12 million by 2030. More alarming is the fact that AFib is responsible for one in seven strokes.

We recognize that these statistics are frightening, which is why the team here at South Mountain Cardiology, including Dr. Nadeem Husain and nurse practitioners Patti Cox, and Kim Munneke, wants to underscore the importance of screening for AFib.

AFib at a glance

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia (an abnormal heart rhythm) in which the upper chambers of your heart, your atria, quiver instead of beat, due to faulty electrical impulses. Because your atria aren’t contracting properly to send blood to your ventricles, blood can pool in these chambers and form clots. If clots form in your left atria, they can break free and travel to your brain, causing a stroke.

To put some numbers to this threat, people with AFib are five times more likely to develop stroke than those who don't have this arrhythmia.

Symptoms of AFib

Afib can come and go and you may not notice any symptoms whatsoever. If you do become symptomatic, you may experience:

Clearly, if you develop symptoms, we urge you to come see us straight away. The problem, however, lies in those who don’t experience symptoms and are unaware of the rhythm problem. It’s for this reason that we recommend regular heart health screenings for people who have the following AFib risk factors:

The reason why the CDC expects AFib numbers to rise considerably is because an increasing percentage of our population has at least one, or more, of these risk factors.

Screening for AFib

There are many ways in which we can detect a rhythm problem in your heart and the screening method we use is largely based upon your symptoms, your medical history, and your risk factors.

To start, we may use an electrocardiogram (EKG) to spot any potential problems in your heart’s rhythm. This test is completely painless as all we do is attach electrodes to your body that measure the electrical signals in your heart. 

In addition to an EKG, we may also recommend a stress test, which monitors your heart activity when we elevate your heart rate.

As well, an echocardiography, which relies on ultrasound, can give us a better look at your heart in action.

Should these frontline tests prove inconclusive or we find something of concern, we may take the next step and outfit you with a Holter monitor or mobile cardiac outpatient telemetry, which are tools that provide us with longer-term measurements of your heart activity — from 24 hours to four weeks. 

Whichever test is right for you, we want to underscore the fact that these screening tools are not only painless, they can potentially save your life. If we find the presence of AFib, we can take the steps necessary to regulate your heart rate and prevent clots from forming, greatly reducing your chances of having a stroke.

If you’d like to schedule your AFib screening test with us, please contact our office in Tempe, Arizona, by clicking here.

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