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Atrial Fibrillation Specialist

South Mountain Cardiology

Cardiology located in Tempe, AZ

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart arrhythmia. The condition also gives you a five-times higher risk of having a stroke compared to people who don’t have atrial fibrillation. At South Mountain Cardiology, Nadeem Husain, MD, FACC, Patti Cox, MSN, ARNP, and Kim Munneke, MSN, FNP-C, help patients stay active and healthy by preventing, diagnosing, and treating atrial fibrillation. If you feel a change in your heartbeat or experience shortness of breath or chest pain, call the office in Tempe, Arizona, or request an appointment online today.

Atrial Fibrillation Q & A

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is a type of heart arrhythmia that causes a rapid and irregular heartbeat. When you have atrial fibrillation, the electrical signal in the heart’s two upper chambers is out of sync with the two lower chambers. 

As a result, the upper chambers beat chaotically, while the lower chambers can’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to your body.

When atrial fibrillation goes untreated, the irregular heartbeat allows blood to pool in the upper chambers, which leads to blood clots. If a blood clot leaves your heart, it can travel to your brain and cause a stroke.

What causes atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation occurs when there’s a problem with the heart’s electrical system or the muscles have damage. The health conditions that often cause atrial fibrillation include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart valve disease
  • Clogged arteries (coronary artery disease)
  • Heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy)
  • Inflamed heart muscles (myocarditis)
  • Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)

You may also develop atrial fibrillation due to congenital heart defects or after a viral infection.

What symptoms appear due to atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations (e.g., racing heart, pounding heart, feeling like your heart is fluttering)
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

In the early stages, you may not have symptoms or they may only appear when you exercise.

How is atrial fibrillation treated?

South Mountain Cardiology reviews your symptoms, completes a physical exam, and performs diagnostic tests such as blood work and an electrocardiogram (EKG), stress test, or echocardiography.

If an irregular heartbeat doesn’t show on your EKG, you may need to wear a mobile heart monitor such as a Holter monitor or mobile cardiac outpatient telemetry (MCOT). The Holter monitor continuously records your heartbeat for a specific period of time, usually 24-48 hours. The MCOT is for monitoring arrhythmias for up to four weeks. 

After diagnosing atrial fibrillation, your provider creates an individualized plan to treat it and underlying conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Your treatment may begin with lifestyle changes that take the stress off your heart and improve the underlying conditions. For example, your provider may recommend making dietary changes, following an exercise regimen, losing weight, or stopping smoking.

You may need to take medications that prevent blood clots, help control your heart rate, or to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your provider may implant a pacemaker to stabilize your heartbeat or catheter ablation procedure to correct electrical problems. 

Some patients need a cardioversion procedure, which is a one-time electrical shock to correct a fast or irregular heartbeat.

If you feel a rapid or irregular heartbeat, call South Mountain Cardiology or book an appointment online today.