September 03 2021
Atrial fibrillation is one of the most prevalent types of arrhythmia of the heart and also the leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Atrial fibrillation is characterized by the abnormal generation of electrical impulses mainly in the upper chambers of the heart. In this condition, the sinus node which is known as the pacemaker of the heart functions chaotically which leads to fibrillation of the atria which in turn manifests as increased heart rate in the range of 100 to 175 beats per minute. The different types of atrial fibrillation include:
- Paroxysmal - This type is characterized by occasional atrial fibrillation with symptoms that show and then disappear.
- Persistent - This type occurs when irregular heart rhythm persists for more than 7 days and electrical intervention is needed to restore the normal heart rhythm.
- Long-standing - This type of atrial fibrillation involves episodes that last more than 12 months.
- Permanent - In this type, normal heart rhythm cannot be restored and medical intervention is essential to control the heart rate.
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation
The most commonly occurring symptoms of atrial fibrillation include palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness, dizziness, weakness, and reduced ability to exercise.
Causes and risk factors of atrial fibrillation
The various factors that increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation are:
Advanced age - Studies show that the risk of developing atrial fibrillation increases with advancing age.
High blood pressure - Hypertension causes the force of blood against the walls of the arteries to increase, which in turn can damage the electrical system of the heart thereby triggering atrial fibrillation.
Obesity - This is one of the most significant risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation.
Heart disease - The presence of underlying cardiovascular diseases such as myocardial infarction, coronary artery disease, abnormalities of the heart valve, congenital heart defects, and previous heart surgery increases the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
Medications - The side effects of some medications such as adenosine, digitalis, and theophylline is that they can increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
Hyperthyroidism - Overproduction of thyroxine hormone stimulates the heart leading to fast and uneven heartbeats thereby triggering atrial fibrillation.
Sleep apnea - This condition is characterized by sudden bouts of the drop in the blood oxygen levels during sleep which in turn damages the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
Stress and distress - Individuals suffering from various psychological disorders such as stress, anxiety, and depression have more severe symptoms of atrial fibrillation.
Sick sinus syndrome - This condition is characterized by improper functioning of the sinus node which in turn leads to arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation.
Using stimulants - Studies have shown that smoking and alcohol consumption increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation. The intake of excessive amounts of caffeine, tobacco, and stimulating medications also makes the individual prone to develop atrial fibrillation.
Complications of atrial fibrillation
Blood clots - When there is the occurrence of atrial fibrillation, proper blood circulation throughout the heart is hindered which causes blood pooling leading to the formation of blood clots.
Stroke - The presence of atrial fibrillation increases the occurrence of stroke which also increases with advances in age.
Cardiovascular disease - Atrial fibrillation is associated with the development of a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, stroke, ischemic heart disease, and sudden cardiac death.
Atrial fibrillation can be diagnosed by a large number of diagnostic tools such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, blood tests, stress tests, and chest x-ray of the lungs and heart.
Treatment strategies for maintaining a healthy heart rhythm
The incorporations of various lifestyle modifications help in improving cardiovascular health along with regulating heart rhythm. Some of them are:
Anti-inflammatory diet - It is necessary to eliminate the intake of inflammatory foods such as refined carbohydrates, added sugars, trans fats, processed meat, and packaged foods to improve cardiovascular health. Foods that are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients help in reducing inflammation, stabilizing the blood glucose levels, decreasing the toxic load in the body, reduces oxidative stress, and fight free radical damage. Such foods include low glycemic index fruits, healthy fats, organic meat, and dairy products, and omega 3 fatty acids.
Foods such as leafy green vegetables and berries are potent antioxidants that play a vital role in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease as they reduce the tendency of thrombosis, inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, promote plaque stability and improve vascular endothelial function.
Balancing electrolytes - Achieving a balance in the electrolyte levels of the body is beneficial in the treatment of atrial fibrillation. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, sulfate, magnesium, and calcium help in controlling the discharge of electrical impulses and thus protect the heart against arrhythmias.
Glutathione - Glutathione is considered to be a potent antioxidant and its anti-inflammatory properties help in protecting the cells from free radical damage. Supplementing Alvizia glutathione supplements is beneficial in maintaining heart health and also reduced the risk of developing disorders of the heart rhythm.
Curcumin - The active component found in turmeric is known as Curcumin and its consumption is effective in regulating the heart rhythm as it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antithrombotic as well as antimicrobial properties. Curcumin has also been found to have a balancing effect on the levels of serum chemicals as it helps in eliminating excessive amounts of LDL cholesterol from the arteries and blood vessels thereby decreasing the occurrence of cardiovascular disease.
Omega 3 fatty acids - Dietary supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids have been found to contain antiarrhythmic effects. Omega 3 fatty acids have also been associated with potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory as well as antifibrotic properties. Alvizia fish oil supplements are excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids and they help in improving cardiovascular health.
Magnesium - Studies have shown that magnesium is essential for the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system and the deficiency of magnesium in the body may trigger irregularities in the heartbeat and other associated conditions. An imbalance in the calcium: magnesium ratio has also been found to increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.