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Don’t let atrial fibrillation go untreated

Having a heart that flutters once in a while may sound harmless, but this flutter feeling may be atrial fibrillation, an abnormal firing of the electrical impulses that cause the top chambers in the heart to quiver. Untreated atrial fibrillation doubles your risk of a heart-related death and is associated with a five-fold increased risk for stroke, according to the American Heart Association. In a 2009 survey, patients with atrial fibrillation were asked if they thought it was a serious condition and only about a third of them were aware that atrial fibrillation provides a serious health risk.

Since some people with atrial fibrillation experience no symptoms, it’s important to have regular physicals where your heart is checked. Whether you have been diagnosed or not, it’s wise to be aware of this significant health condition.

Not everyone with atrial fibrillation experiences symptoms but many do find a change in their health. The most significant is a sudden rapid heartbeat that may feel like fluttering or thumping in the chest. There may also be some dizziness, shortness of breath or general weakness. Some people become confused or even faint. Others notice a feeling of fatigue when exercising or experience excessive sweating. Chest pain or pressure is also a sign of atrial fibrillation. Many of these symptoms are similar to symptoms of a heart attack or stroke so it is always wise to see a doctor when these symptoms arise, even if they are temporary.

Types of atrial fibrillation
Although the symptoms are similar, there are several types of atrial fibrillation. Paroxysmal fibrillation describes an irregular heartbeat that returns to normal within seven days. A person may have several episodes a year but the heart is able to return to a normal rhythm, sometimes without treatment. Persistent atrial fibrillation describes an irregular heartbeat that continues for longer than seven days. The heart will not return to its normal pattern without treatment. Long-standing atrial fibrillation describes a heart that is has an irregular beat lasting longer than 12 months, and permanent atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart is consistently experiencing an irregular heartbeat. Without treatment, paroxysmal fibrillation can become permanent atrial fibrillation. A final category is non- valvular atrial fibrillation, which refers to an irregular heartbeat not related to a heart valve problem.

Treating atrial fibrillation
Controlling atrial fibrillation and therefore reducing your stroke risk, requires a careful assessment of the underlying causes. Sometimes treatment can be as simple as skipping the caffeine in your morning cup of coffee. If the cause is hyperthyroidism, treating that issue may make the atrial fibrillation disappear. There are medications that can slow a heart rate and reduce symptoms but these medications do not fix the heart’s abnormal rhythms. Therefore, doctors often prescribe medications to reduce stroke risks like anticoagulants. Some of the factors that are considered when prescribing treatment include the presence of congestive heart failure or hypertension, age, diabetes, vascular disease, and gender.

Finding effective cardiac care
There are many factors that contribute to a successful recovery after a medical event. Conditions that are present like atrial fibrillation must be effectively monitored and treated during recovery. Having experts who continually monitor your vital signs and knows what is normal and what needs treatment can increase the success and speed of a recovery. One of the North Shore’s leading rehabilitation and health care centers to deliver this level of care is Glenview Terrace, especially when it comes to cardiac care.

The Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Glenview Terrace is designed for patients recovering from a variety of heart conditions, as well as from post-surgical and non-surgical procedures. Under the direction of a board-certified cardiologist, Glenview Terrace’s expert multidisciplinary team assists patients toward a successful recovery by offering individualized and comprehensive physical, occupational and respiratory therapies; cardiac monitoring to track progress, vital signs, functional activities and cardiac medications; nutritional expertise and a heart-healthy diet; wellness education to help patients adapt to new lifestyle choices; and much more.

Glenview Terrace guests can be assured that all their doctor’s instructions will expertly be carried out and that pain and other symptoms can be managed quickly. Therapists work with guests one-on-one to get them up and moving at a pace that will move them safely toward recovery. Glenview Terrace also has fully-equipped gyms to assist guests in regaining strength, balance and flexibility.

All of this highly qualified care is delivered in an elegant setting featuring meticulously landscaped grounds and spacious, well-appointed rooms. Guests can also choose to relax in their rooms with an array of amenities like dozens of cable channels and movie options, concierge service and more.

Recovery can be complicated, so go where you will have skilled and experienced care in comfortable surroundings. For additional information or to arrange a tour, visit or call 847-729-9090.

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