As many as 6 million Americans have atrial fibrillation (AFib), a condition that occurs when your heart’s upper chambers beat irregularly. If you have AFib, your risks of developing dangerous blood clots and having a stroke dramatically increase.
Many people with AFib have a noticeably rapid or irregular heartbeat, but sometimes, AFib causes no symptoms. Knowing your risk factors for AFib can help you get the treatment you need to avoid strokes and other potential complications.
At TLC Medical Group Inc. in Port St. Lucie, Florida, Anthony B. Lewis MD, FACC and his team help patients manage atrial fibrillation with medications and other treatments aimed at restoring a normal heart rhythm and preventing strokes and other complications.
1. High blood pressure
About half of American adults have high blood pressure (hypertension), increasing their risks of heart attack, stroke, and AFib, among other medical problems. If you have high blood pressure, your blood exerts more force on the walls of your arteries and on your organs, too, including your heart.
Over time, hypertension causes the heart to work harder, eventually causing the muscle tissue to grow stiff and hard. These tissue changes interfere with the way your heart contracts and beats, and they also interfere with the electrical activity that controls your heart rhythm.
2. Thyroid disease
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that spans the front of your neck, dispensing hormones that play roles in metabolism, body temperature, weight regulation, and other functions, including your heart rate. Sometimes, the thyroid produces too many hormones, a condition called hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism causes your heart to beat rapidly, increasing strain on the heart. In addition, too many thyroid hormones can cause the upper chambers of the heart to enlarge. Together, these factors increase your risk of developing AFib.
3. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic medical problem that causes your breathing to be interrupted while you sleep, often hundreds of times a night. In most cases, these interruptions are so brief, you may not even realize they’re happening.
The disruptions in breathing interrupt normal blood flow and oxygen delivery to the heart, forcing the heart to work harder under strain. Breathing interruptions can also affect the normal heart rhythm, leading eventually to AFib.
About 42% of American adults suffer from obesity, a chronic condition that increases the risks of many serious medical problems, including AFib. While most people understand that being overweight puts additional strain on the heart, that’s not the only link between obesity and AFib.
Researchers believe obesity contributes to AFib in several ways. First, obesity increases inflammation, which may have an impact on the heart’s structure and rhythm. The added strain obesity places on the heart often leads to enlargement of one of the heart’s upper chambers, which may also lead to AFib. Additionally, obesity causes the heart tissue to change or “remodel,” eventually leading to stiffening of the heart’s muscle tissue that interferes with the normal “beating” action of the heart.
5. Coronary artery disease (CAD)
CAD is the most common type of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States. CAD happens when the arteries that supply the heart with blood are clogged or narrowed by the buildup of sticky plaque, preventing the heart from receiving the oxygen and nutrients it needs for optimal health and function.
CAD puts additional strain on the heart, eventually leading to problems with the heart’s electrical system that controls your heart’s rhythm. Over time, this disruption increases your risk of developing AFib, along with other problems, like angina and heart attacks.
Learn how to manage your AFib
While these conditions are common causes of AFib, lots of other issues can increase your risk of developing AFib, too, including other medical conditions, lifestyle habits, and even medications. Dr. Lewis and his team work closely with every patient, customizing AFib treatment plans and helping people at risk of AFib reduce their risk factors for the condition.
If you have AFib or if you’re at risk of developing AFib, we can help. To learn more, call 772-200-3829 or book an appointment online with the team at TLC Medical Group today.