When it comes to atrial fibrillation, can you separate the facts from the fiction?
AFib stands for atrial fibrillation. Sometimes it’s called arrhythmia. That’s when your heart starts unexpectedly beating faster than usual or irregularly. It’s scary to experience that sudden fluttery feeling in your heart. It means your heart’s contractions are off kilter. Sometimes AFib isn’t as dangerous as you think. Other times it can mean blood isn’t moving correctly in your body. There are many myths that surround AFib. Knowing about them can help ease your mind while prompting you to learn more about treating the condition.
Causes of AFib
First, it helps to know the causes of AFib. Your heart’s rhythm is controlled by the way your heart and brain communicate. During AFib, your heart’s two upper chambers squeeze too fast and out of sync. It’s a bit difficult to understand why someone experiences AFib. But some factors that could lead to AFib include:
- Birth defects
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Lung disease
- Sleep apnea
- Viral infections
Any one of these events could damage your heart’s electrical system, making it misfire. This could cause an AFib attack. Here are seven common myths about AFib.
Myth #1: A fluttering heart stops beating soon
The fact is that it’s unlikely your heart will stop beating during AFib. An AFib attack could cause problems over time, however. For example:
- Irregular heartbeats may cause blood to pool and clot.
- Irregular heartbeats mean fluid can build up in your lungs.
- Irregular heartbeats may result in too little blood reaching your heart.
These long-term problems may happen if you don’t get treatment.
Myth #2: You can’t exercise with AFib
The fact is that regular physical exercise is good for AFib. Physical activity strengthens your heart and will likely lessen your episodes of AFib. It’s a good idea to practice gentle yoga if you have AFib.
Myth #3: You can’t have sexual intercourse with AFib
Having sex is fine if you have AFib. Sex reduces stress. It helps you connect and become closer to your partner. All of that is good for AFib.
Myth #4: You’ll always have AFib
AFib can be progressive in some people. For others, AFib may only occur in episodes. Some people only have occasional AFib episodes that never become a chronic problem. If you’re young and healthy but have experienced AFib, chances are you may not have another episode.
Myth #5: You need a pacemaker or surgery to stop AFib
Your doctor might first recommend medication to treat AFib. There are medications to help control your heart’s rhythm and slow it down. If your AFib is chronic and non-invasive treatments aren’t working, your doctor may recommend surgery, called ablation. Ablation is a procedure that scars or destroys tissue near your heart that may cause your abnormal heart rhythm. Your doctor might recommend a pacemaker if your heart rhythm is too slow and you haven’t responded to other treatments. This is a device that regulates your heartbeats.
Myth #6: You have to give up alcohol with AFib
You can still drink alcohol on a moderate basis if you have AFib. Alcohol can add to your risk of having an AFib episode, however. You should keep in mind how much and what type of alcohol you’re drinking. A glass or two a day may not cause any issues. In some people, more than three drinks a day may cause AFib. Choose a drink with less alcohol in it, such as wine.
Myth #7: You can’t drive anymore if you have AFib
You don’t have to give up driving if your AFib is under control. However there are guidelines about driving with an AFib diagnosis. These come from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some arrhythmias can cause a person to faint, which causes problems behind the wheel. Certain treatments, such as ablation, mean you may not be able to drive for a few months until your heart stabilizes. Talk to your doctor about whether it’s okay for you to drive with AFib.
Want to know more about AFib and how to manage the condition? Visit Mercy.com to find a cardiologist near you.