Healthier lifestyle vital for patients with atrial fibrillation

Healthier lifestyle vital for patients with atrial fibrillation

On January 31, 2017, Theresa Barrick of Goshen awoke with an extremely elevated heart rate – about 200 beats per minute. Her husband took her to Goshen Hospital, where she was quickly evaluated and her symptoms stabilized. Because Theresa had a prior history of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart condition commonly called AFib), it was clear she needed further treatment. So Theresa returned to the Goshen Heart & Vascular Center a few weeks later for a new atrial flutter ablation procedure administered in the electrophysiology lab. 

The procedure, performed by Dr. Mark Dixon, was the first of its kind in the area and was only possible because of the electrophysiology lab’s advanced facilities. The outcome was a great success. After a brief overnight stay, Theresa went home and was back to work in about a week.

Theresa is one of the six million Americans with AFib. Although not always a chronic condition, Dr. Dixon says it is very common especially in the Midwest. And the risks of AFib are heart failure, chronic fatigue and, of course, stroke.

According to Dr. Dixon, the usual causes of Afib are:

  • Aging. As we get older the heart has more difficulty pumping which puts more pressure on artery walls.
  • Hypertension. Dr. Dixon believes physicians need to rethink how they evaluate blood pressure because simply taking a reading while a patient is sitting in their office fails to take into account irregular rhythms that may occur during periods of physical exertion or stress.
  • Obesity. People need to maintain a reasonable weight for their body size.
  • Sleep apnea. The danger is not lack of oxygen as many people assume but rather the build-up of carbon dioxide.
  • Coronary heart disease, or the narrowing of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.
  • Smoking and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD, a condition characterized by shortness of breath, chronic cough and wheezing).

Except for aging, all these scenarios can be addressed by modifying one’s behavior. Dr. Dixon says, it is essential that people maintain a healthy lifestyle even when doing so may seem overwhelming at first. “In short, success is a collaborative process between the patient and doctor. I enjoy working together with patients to identify and take the necessary steps so they can return to a higher quality of life.”

Restoring the patient’s quality of life is the primary goal of treatment as well as preventing strokes, reducing symptoms (re-establishing normal rhythms) and slowing the increase in AFib. The most common treatments are drugs and surgical procedures like catheter ablation or the atrial flutter ablation performed on Theresa Barrick. Theresa is a believer and offers these words of encouragement to others who may be dealing with AFib symptoms. “Treatment is nothing to fear. You still have adventures left in life and friends to make.” 

Posted: 1/22/2019 by Goshen Health
Filed under: Heart and Vascular

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