Basic steps to take, say the cardiologists at St. Luke’s Heart and Vascular Center — the Lehigh Valley’s leader in heart valve repair, with the area’s leading experts in heart rhythm — include monitoring yourself for worsening symptoms. Those might include:
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or dizziness
- Heart palpitations
- Chest discomfort
If you notice any of these issues, contact your doctor immediately. Otherwise, make sure you see your physician on a regular basis so that any hidden symptoms can be diagnosed and treated. Non-invasive tests can be performed — such as echocardiograms, which show the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart’s chambers and valves are working; blood tests; stress tests; and chest x-rays.
As a result of your tests, preventive medicines that may be prescribed, says Steve Stevens, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist at St. Luke’s, include blood thinners, which can prevent a stroke — a major hazard of aFib. Darren Traub, DO, medical director of the Hearth Rhythm Center at St. Luke’s Heart and Vascular Center, says that other medicines include those that control heart rate, by blocking electrical mis-signals from one part of the heart to another, or those that control heart rhythm, preventing the unusual heartbeat patterns experienced by those with aFib. Dr. Traub goes on to say that medicines can control aFib, but cannot cure it.
If the disease progresses, surgery may be indicated. For example, ablation, where cauterization to remove or melt away damaged tissue is performed at the site where the electrical misfiring takes place, may be necessary, says Sudip Nanda, MD, another cardiologist specializing in electrophysiology at St. Luke’s. Valve repair or replacement — using catheter-based or minimally invasive surgery when possible — might also be indicated.
Know that the way you experience aFib can be different from the way someone else does, so it’s important to go to a center like St. Luke’s, where a personalized approach to medicine means every patient gets the individualized care he or she needs.