Can Atrial Flutter Be Prevented
Atrial flutter can be prevented or the risk of it decreased by reducing the factors that may trigger it. The simplest things to do to prevent it are:
- Get regular exercise and be active
- Eat a heart healthy diet
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol and/or caffeine.
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight
If you have underlying health conditions such as lung disease or diabetes, for example, appropriate treatment of these conditions will help decrease the risk or prevent atrial flutter. The ablation procedure may prevent subsequent occurrences of an abnormal heart rhythm like atrial fibrillation and an atrial rate seen in atrial flutter and restore relatively normal electrical heart health.
Stress Increases The Severity Of Your Afib Symptoms By:
Increasing your risk of having heart palpitations
Elevating your blood pressure and resting heart rate
Negatively impacting your sleep quality
Increasing the likelihood of consuming excess alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
Reducing your motivation to cook and eat nutritious meals
But if you could wave a magic wand and remove 100% of the sources of stress in your life, would your AFib episodes go away completely? The answer is likely no. Because atrial fibrillation is a complex medical condition that is often brought on by a multitude of pre-existing medical conditions, removing stress alone would not cure the disease completely.
But, with that being said, finding ways to reduce your stress levels has been proven to have a positive impact on the health of patients living with AFib, and can reduce symptoms of atrial fibrillation.
What Are Afib Symptoms To Watch For
You may be experiencing atrial fibrillation if you feel:
- Your heart skipping beats
- A fluttering in your chest
- Acute chest pain
- Shortness of breath
People with anxiety will also recognize these signs, as they can also be signs of a panic attack. While the signs are similar, the causes are very different, so it is important to understand the differences between the two.
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If you’re feeling bone-deep mental and physical exhaustion, or what is otherwise known as burnout, new research suggests you could be at a higher risk for a potentially fatal heart flutter.
Is That Pounding Heartbeat An Anxiety Attack Or Afib
Afib, or Atrial Fibrillation, occurs when the top two chambers of your heart beat erratically and out of rhythm with the lower two chambers. This can happen in short bursts or show up as a chronic condition. Afib symptoms are usually sharp and immediate. Those with Afib have reported feeling including dizziness, weakness, fatigue and chest pain.
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Epidemiology And Clinical Significance
Atrial flutter typically is paroxysmal, usually lasting seconds to hours, but on occasion lasting longer. Occasionally, it is a persistent rhythm. Atrial flutter as a stable, chronic rhythm is unusual, as it usually reverts either to sinus rhythm or to atrial fibrillation, either spontaneously or as a result of treatment. However, atrial flutter has been reported to be present for up to 20 years or more. It can occur in patients with ostensibly normal atria or with abnormal atria. Atrial flutter occurs commonly in patients in the first week after open heart surgery. Patients with atrial flutter not uncommonly demonstrate sinus bradycardia or other manifestations of sinus node dysfunction. Atrial flutter is also associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, mitral or tricuspid valve disease, thyrotoxicosis, and surgical repair of certain congenital cardiac lesions which involve large incisions or suture lines in the atria. It is also associated with enlargement of the atria for any reason, especially the right atrium.
Next Steps And Beyond
Atrial flutter does raise your chance of having a stroke. But if you donât have other heart disease, your outlook is generally quite good. If it happens once without serious heart or lung disease, you may never have it again. If you do have other heart disease, your atrial flutter may come back. If that happens, you should see a heart specialist called a cardiologist.
American Heart Association: âAblation for Arrhythmias,â âAtrial Fibrillation Medications,â âNon-surgical Procedures for Atrial Fibrillation .â
American College of Cardiology: âRecommended Doses of Anticoagulant/Antithrombotic Therapies for Patients with Atrial Fibrillation,â “Living with AFib: Experts and Patients Share 10 Tips.”
Mayo Clinic: âCardioversion,â âWhatâs a normal resting heart rate?â “Atrial fibrillation: Diagnosis & treatment,” “Atrial fibrillation: Symptoms & causes.”
StopAfib.org: âUsing Electrical Cardioversion for Atrial Fibrillation.â
Heart Rhythm Society: âTypes of Ablations,â “Atrial Flutter,” “Risk Factors for Atrial Fibrillation .”
Medscape: âAtrial Flutter Treatment & Management.â
Noel G. Boyle, MD, PhD, co-director, cardiac electrophysiology, assistant professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.
Kathryn L. Hale, medical writer, eMedicine.com.
Anthony Anker, MD, attending physician, emergency department, Mary Washington Hospital, Fredericksburg, VA.
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Foods To Eat And Foods To Avoid
When you’ve been diagnosed with AF, the best kind of eating programme to follow is a heart healthy eating plan. The plan will help you manage your atrial fibrillation symptoms and reduce your risk of other types of heart disease.
A heart healthy diet means eating a dietary pattern based largely on minimally-processed foods with plenty of vegetables and fruit. Include some intact whole grains in place of refined grains: legumes, nuts, seeds and other sources of healthy fats such as oily fish. You can also include non-processed lean meats or poultry and/or dairy.
The diet also means cutting back on foods that are high in saturated fats and trans fats, salt and sugar. You’ll find more about how to follow a heart healthy eating pattern on our nutrition pages.
There are also some foods you’ll need to avoid if you’re taking certain medications. If you’re on warfarin you’ll need to make sure you don’t eat large quantities of vitamin K. Foods that contain high levels of vitamin K include:
- leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale
- green tea.
If you’re on anti-arrhythmic drugs, such as amiodarone, you’ll need to avoid grapefruit as it can make your medication less effective.
You may also need to avoid other substances that trigger AF, such as alcohol and possibly caffeine. You can read more about triggers on our managing your AF page.
Manage High Blood Pressure And Cholesterol
Having high cholesterol is a risk factor for a heart attack, which can also impact the heart rate. High blood pressure can interfere with the electrical system that regulates a steady heartbeat.
It is important to work with a doctor if lifestyle changes cannot keep these health markers in the healthy range. For some people, medication may be necessary.
Blood pressure monitors are available from pharmacies or you can purchase them online.
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The Difference Between Afib And A Panic Attack
The main difference between Afib and a panic attack is what makes it happen. Afib has a physical trigger that sends a surge of electrical impulses through your heart, causing it to get out of sync with itself. In this case, there might be no external factors or warning signs to let you know you are about to have an episode.
Panic attacks, on the other hand, usually come from a source of stress or anxiety. This psychological pressure then results in the physical pain of an anxiety attack.
Understandably, its hard to tell what exactly is happening in the moment. However, knowing how to tell the difference between the two can make a big difference.
Cause Of Skipped Heartbeats From Anxiety
Atrial fibrillation, or “AF,” is the most common cause of irregular heartbeats. Any type of irregular heartbeat can lead to rapid heartbeat and associated symptoms, such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and feelings of feint.
These are the same symptoms caused by anxiety, because anxiety can also contribute to an irregular heartbeat.
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Common Treatment For Afib May Lower Anxiety Depression
Levels of anxiety and depression seen in people who have a common heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation may be affected by how the heart condition is treated, a new study suggests.
Past studies have shown that anxiety, distress and depression are common among people with AFib. The new Australian study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at personality traits and levels of anxiety and depression in 78 patients who had sought treatment for the disorder. Twenty chose to have an ablation, a procedure that destroys the heart tissue causing the abnormal heartbeat the other 58 were on medications to control their heart rate and prevent blood clots.
When the study began, 35 percent of the participants reported experiencing severe anxiety and distress and 20 percent reported having had suicidal thoughts. One year later, the researchers found that the patients who had an ablation were less likely to report feelings of anxiety and depression than the patients taking medications. In addition, the number of patients in the ablation group with suicidal thoughts dropped from six to one.
The studys senior author, Jonathan Kalman, an electrophysiologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia, said the study demonstrates that effective treatment of atrial fibrillation markedly reduces psychological distress.
Patel, who was not involved in the study, said the studys small size limited what could be construed from the findings.
Choose Healthy Relaxation Techniques
Clearly, stress should be controlled for a better quality of life. One of the simplest ways to stop tension from building up in your body and mind is through healthy daily habits.
Start with a healthy diet. Fortunately, there are plenty of heart-healthy foods that are also known to combat stress focus on getting some of these into your diet:
While its unclear whether certain foods can immediately bring down your stress level, some things are known to push it up. Caffeine is the most common culprit, as it stimulates your nervous system, but sugar and other simple carbs will lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels that can leave you feeling moody and on edge, too.
Exercise goes a long way. Regular exercise is great at reducing stress, but prioritize frequency over intensity. Your doctor will be able to give you guidelines that will help you stay in a safe zone when youre working out. Brisk walking or gentle cycling can be a good place to begin. Find an activity that keeps your muscles moving without causing you to strain or lose your breath and commit to making it a part of your daily or weekly routine.
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The Physical Effects Of Stress And Anxiety
To paint the best picture of the intricate relationship between stress, anxiety, and atrial fibrillation, lets take a closer at each side of the equation before we connect them.
When you have anxiety or stress, your body goes into a fight-or-flight response thats initiated by your sympathetic nervous system. As a result, hormones are released that cause physiological responses in your body, including:
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid heart and breath rate
- Change in blood flow
This change of blood flow is designed to help you fight or flee as it diverts blood from the surface of your skin to your muscles, legs, arms, and brain.
As you can see, many of the physical side effects of stress or anxiety stem from your cardiovascular system, which explains why higher-than-normal levels of stress can burden this same system.
Relieving Anxiety To Reduce Afib Symptoms
Anxiety can interfere with heart rate, and that can make AFib episodes more scary and uncomfortable, which will certainly cause more anxiety. If anxiety is a known trigger for your AFib, you need to deal with it in order to end the vicious cycle. Its crucial that you reduce the stress in your life, treat your anxiety disorder, and create a heart-healthy environment to ease the effects of both conditions.
- Medications. Make sure you consult with your doctor about taking appropriate anxiety medication. Even if you dont take it daily, you should have something on hand to quell the problem as soon as it begins.
- Exercise. It should come as no surprise that exercise is an invaluable asset in the fight against anxiety. Regular activity is one of the best ways to relieve stress, plus it helps many patients with AFib reduce the frequency of irregular heart rate episodes.
- Relaxation therapy. Learning how to systematically relax your body and mind will go far to helping you gain control over anxious episodes.
- Communication. Meet with a support group or online forum to share your ideas and concerns, and keep the lines of communication open with your doctor. No problem is too small to mention be open, honest and inquisitive.
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New Study Finds Link Between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder And Increased Risk Of Developing Atrial Fibrillation A New Study Is The First To Report A Relationship Between Post
Presented at Heart Rhythm 2018, first-of-its-kind, large scale study includes more than 1 million post-9/11 veterans receiving medical care
A new study is the first to report a relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder and new cases of atrial fibrillation , the most common heart arrhythmia. The large nationwide study included more than 1 million patients with no prior history of AF or atrial flutter. The study is scheduled to be presented on Friday, May 11 at Heart Rhythm 2018, the Heart Rhythm Societys 39th Annual Scientific Sessions.
AF affects more than 2.7 million American adults each year and this number is expected to increase to nearly eight million by the year 2050. Since AF significantly impacts both patients and the healthcare system, researchers are committed to identifying risks factors and developing novel strategies to prevent and manage the arrhythmia. Thus far, AF has been linked to traditional cardiovascular risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, obesity and sleep apnea. Data linking psychological stress and negative emotions to AF are also beginning to emerge. PTSD is a related chronic stress condition that has been linked to other cardiovascular disease , however, its relationship to AF has not been previously studied.
Sessions details:“Featured Poster Session & Reception: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder And The Risk For Incident Atrial Fibrillation”
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About the Heart Rhythm Society
Focus On The Long Term
Instead of saving relaxation techniques for stressful times, schedule stress relief into your daily and weekly routine. Some days you might not feel like carving out time to sit quietly or work out your tension with a brisk walk, but youll thank yourself later. A habit takes about a month to form start now, and you might be pleasantly surprised at how far youve come in just a few weeks.
If these measures arent doing much to quell your anxiety, dont suffer through the discomfort alone. Talk to your doctor or get a referral to a specialist who can help determine hidden problems or triggers that may need more attention before you can make real gains.
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Goals Of Atrial Flutter Treatment
The goals are to control the heart rate, restore a normal sinus rhythm, prevent future episodes, and prevent stroke.
Control your heart rate: The first treatment goal is to control the ventricular rate.
- If you have serious symptoms, like chest pain or congestive heart failure related to the ventricular rate, the doctor will lower your heart rate rapidly with IV medications or electrical shock.
- If you have no serious symptoms, you may get medications by mouth.
- Sometimes you may need a combination of oral drugs to control your heart rate.
- You might need surgery to control your heart rate or rhythm, but this is rare.
Restore and maintain a normal rhythm: Some people with newly diagnosed atrial flutter go back to a normal rhythm on their own within 24-48 hours. The goal of treatment is to convert the atrial flutter to a normal sinus rhythm and make sure it doesnât come back.
- Not everyone with atrial flutter needs anti-arrhythmic medication.
- How fast your arrhythmia returns and the symptoms it causes partly determine whether youâll get anti-arrhythmic drugs.
- Medical professionals carefully tailor each person’s anti-arrhythmic medications to produce the desired effect without creating unwanted side effects, some potentially deadly.
Prevent future episodes: You can do this by taking daily medication to keep your heart beating at a safe and comfortable rate.
Are Heart Palpitations From Anxiety Dangerous
Although heart palpitations can be alarming, most arent dangerous. They usually go away after the anxiety-causing situation passes.
Less commonly, heart palpitations can be a sign of a serious health problem, such as arrhythmia . These heart palpitations may feel like they cause anxiety rather than follow it. If you have palpitations along with chest pain, trouble breathing, dizziness or confusion, seek medical help right away.
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What Is The Difference Between Atrial Flutter And Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial flutter is closely related to AFib, another arrhythmia. Symptoms like a racing heart and dizziness are common with both conditions. About one-third of people who have AFib also have atrial flutter.
In atrial flutter, electrical impulses don’t travel in a straight line from the top of your heart to the bottom. Instead, they move in a circle inside the upper chambers. As a result, your heart beats too fast, but still in a steady rhythm.
In AFib, the electrical signals that travel through the atria are fast and disorderly, which makes them quiver instead of squeezing strongly. This causes the heart to beat too fast and in a chaotic rhythm.
Be Proactive Not Reactive
When you feel in control, your confidence grows, and you may find youre more emotionally resilient. In turn, its important to take an active role in your treatment: read up on AFib symptoms and the latest research in available treatments, and talk to your doctor regularly about your own AFib management. Understanding what your body is going through, and what you can do about it, will help you stay upbeat and in control.
Behavioral training can help. Learning certain techniques to retrain your brain and body can have amazing effects on your health. Regular meditation can reduce stress in the short- and long-term: read up on mindfulness meditation and get in deep touch with your breathing by practicing yoga.
Progressive muscle relaxation is another handy technique that you can use easily in any environment. Simply contract and relax each muscle group one at a time, from your head to your toes or vice versa, to manually trigger a state of deep relaxation. Patience is key, and it will pay off.
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