Irregular Heartbeat 

Irregular Heartbeat 

by Carrie Dunaway Graves, DNP, APRN, NP-C, CVNP-BC
Lexington Clinic Cardiology

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) seen in the United States and causes more than 450,000 hospitalizations and 158,000 deaths each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Below are additional statistics regarding AF: 

  • AF is associated with a 4-5 times increase in stroke risk. 
  • AF is believed to be the cause of 1 in 7 strokes
  • Strokes that result from AF are known to be more debilitating than strokes from any other cause. 
  • AF can contribute to the development of congestive heart failure when the heart rate/rhythm is not controlled. 
  • Appropriate anticoagulation for those individuals who have AF is associated with a significant reduction in stroke risk

Common complaints of patients seeking treatment for AF include:

  • Palpitations (fluttering in chest/skipping of the heartbeat)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weakness/fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness/fainting
  • Irregular pulse 
  • Confusion
  • Pounding heart beat

These symptoms can come and go based on the severity of your condition.

Risk Factors/Causes & Treatment

Risk factors/causes of AF include: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Advancing age
  • Family history
  • Acute infection
  • Alcohol use
  • Sleep apnea 
  • Thyroid disease
  • Smoking history

Treatment options for AF include:

  • Blood thinning medications to prevent stroke in those who qualify
  • Medications to control heart rate/rhythm
  • Cardioversion
  • Catheter ablation

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of AF, it is important to see your doctor for evaluation. If you are diagnosed with AF, a complete cardiac examination is recommended. If left untreated, AF has been proven to be deadly, however with appropriate management the prognosis for those individuals with AF is good. 

Lexington Clinic is committed to keeping you safe and healthy. If you would like to establish care with one of our cardiology providers, please call (859) 258-5300

Carrie Dunaway Graves, DNP, APRN, NP-C, CVNP-BC is certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in Family Medicine and the American College of Cardiovasular Medicine. She provides services in general adult cardiology, non-invasive cardiology, primary and secondary prevention and cardiac procedures and testing.

Carrie Dunaway Graves can be reached at (859) 258-5300.

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