For the approximately 2.7 million people in the US who are living with atrial fibrillation (AFib), their “quivering” heart may come with serious health risks. Medication typically treats the condition, but new information may mean different treatment options. Now, information about what causes the condition and how to treat it may lead to advances in the quality of life for AFib patients. Let’s take a closer look at what the future may hold for those with AFib.
AFib is a heart condition characterized by an irregular heartbeat. It’s the most common type of irregularity in the heartbeat, though some people don’t have outward symptoms. Doctors have been aware of AFib for more than 100 years, but they have yet to discover a cure.
When not treated, AFib may lead to serious health issues, such as strokes, blood clots, and pulmonary embolisms. Treating AFib is the key to reducing the risk of other problems related to it, but the best option is to find a way to cure or prevent it in the first place. A new study may be shining some light on that hope.
Most commonly, doctors treat AFib with medications and lifestyle changes. There are three types of medicines used in many patients with atrial fibrillation. They are designed to treat the heart rhythm, heart rate, and clotting risk. However, not all AFib patients use all three of these medications, and some only need two out of the three.
Additionally, there are other ways of treating AFib in some patients. Cryoablation uses cold temperatures to freeze specific heart cells responsible for the problem. While it’s a surgical procedure, it’s only mildly invasive. Another option is using radio frequency to generate heat to ablate the cells. Unfortunately, not everyone is a candidate for these procedures, and they don’t always cure the problem.
The newest treatment being studied for AFib doesn’t use heat or cold to treat the problem. Instead, a small study on 25 people was conducted using electrical pulses to address the condition. While it’s clear that more research is needed to determine the actual success rate, the study’s participants fared well.
This proof-of-concept study may indicate that electrical pulses are a safe and effective way to treat AFib at least in some patients. As with any type of treatment, it may not be the right option for everyone who lives with the condition.
The procedure isn’t readily available yet, and it may be some time before it is as more studies are needed. In the meantime, anyone with AFib should follow their doctor’s advice regarding medications and lifestyle changes. Losing weight, quitting smoking, and staying active may also help improve heart health in general and reduce atrial fibrillation and associated risks and complications along the way.
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