Treatment for Afib
Once Afib is diagnosed, treatment usually begins with lifestyle modification including improved diet, exercise, reduction in stress, and quitting alcohol and smoking amongst other things. While the connection hasn’t fully been explored, we do know that excess weight and poor lifestyle habits seem to contribute to the development of Afib.
Should lifestyle changes fail to improve the condition, certain medications may be considered to minimize the risk of stroke, which is the clear and primary concern for anyone with Afib. Some medications, known as anticoagulants, colloquially known as blood thinners, are used to reduce the risk of blood clotting. Patients may also be started on antiarrhythmic medication which can help bring the heart back into a more normal rhythm.
However, up to 50% of patients experience unacceptable side effects from these and other medications. Further, medication is only effective over the course of its use. Once the medication is stopped, it ceases to have effect. Finally, certain medications may become less effective over time and either require a higher dose or force the patient to live with additional side effects.
For the approximately 50% of patients who do not tolerate medication well or for whom medication does not offer sufficient relief, ablative procedures known as a cardiac catheter ablation or cryo-ablation are exceptionally safe and effective options to permanently eliminate Afib. Ablations involve threading a catheter through a blood vessel in the leg and up to the heart. Malfunctioning heart tissue is ablated, or destroyed, using targeted heat or cold therapy. The entire procedure is performed in a specially-outfitted EP lab and requires very little recovery time.