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Listen To Your Heartbeat: A Deep Dive into Atrial Fibrillation – News18

In the fast-paced symphony of our daily lives, it’s easy to overlook the steady rhythm of our heartbeats. We rush through our routines, meeting responsibilities and chasing dreams, often neglecting the health of our heart along the way. Recently, on CNN News18’s show “Listen To Your Heartbeat”, renowned heart specialists from India came together to discuss the heart condition known as atrial fibrillation. The goal? To illuminate the path for those grappling with this condition, to empower them with knowledge, and to awaken a sense of vigilance in every heartbeat. 

What led to this discussion? In a world where cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) stand as the formidable adversary to global health, responsible for a staggering 17.9 million lives lost annually, awareness becomes the beacon of hope. The pulse of concern intensifies as we realize that our very own nation, India, has claimed an unfortunate title—the epicenter of chronic heart diseases, as asserted by the Cardiological Society of India (CSI).

United by a common mission, four luminaries embarked on a journey to demystify atrial fibrillation, a condition that often eludes the public eye but silently affects countless lives – Dr. Anil Saxena, a beacon of expertise as a Consultant Cardiologist and Director of Cardiac Pacing and Electrophysiology at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi, Dr. Vinayak Agarwal, a trailblazer in Clinical Cardiology and Clinical Imaging, heading the departments at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, Haryana, Dr. Asit Khanna, a guiding light as the Principal Cardiologist and Clinical Coordinator at Yashoda Super Speciality Hospital, Ghaziabad and Dr. Sanjeev Gera, a compassionate healer and Consultant Cardiologist, also entrusted with the role of Head of Department at Fortis, Noida. Their collective wisdom illuminated the intricate facets of this disorder, unraveling its impact on health and wellbeing. 

Unraveling Atrial Fibrillation: Exploring Disrupted Heart Rhythms

Dr. Anil Saxena discussed the surge in heart diseases in India, focusing on atrial fibrillation (AF), a disruptive heart rhythm disorder. He explained that AF involves irregular quivering of the heart’s upper chambers, disrupting its natural rhythm and potentially leading to palpitations and stroke. This condition, increasingly affecting the elderly as populations age, has emerged as a key contributor to strokes.

A Hidden Danger: How Atrial Fibrillation Links to Strokes

Dr. Vinayak explained that in atrial fibrillation, the upper heart chambers (atria) experience irregular quivering instead of regular contractions. This leads to blood pooling and clot formation, especially in a small pouch called the left atrial appendage. These clots can break free and travel to the brain, causing strokes. 

“One in five strokes occurring worldwide are attributable to atrial fibrillation. The problem with this kind of stroke is that they are not only more frequent, they are more severe, more sinister, the disability is more, the impact on daily lives, even young lives is significant,” said Dr. Vinayak.

Understanding Atrial Fibrillation Risks: A Closer Look

Dr. Asit elaborated on the risk factors for atrial fibrillation – traditional factors like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, family history, and age above 65. The accumulation of these risk factors significantly increases the chances of developing atrial fibrillation. Risk assessment is often done using the CHA2DS2-VASc Score, which gauges both atrial fibrillation and stroke risk.

“Not only can you gauge your stroke risk, but you can also get an estimate of your bleeding risk using a tool known as the HAS-BLED score. While it provides a general idea, it’s essential not to rely solely on it for your medical decisions,” said Dr. Asit.

Recognizing the Clues: Identifying Atrial Fibrillation’s Signs

Dr. Sanjeev emphasized that while symptoms like palpitations, breathlessness, fatigue, and chest discomfort are common indicators of atrial fibrillation, patients often seek help only after experiencing strokes or falls. He highlighted the significance of recognizing these signs earlier to prevent such severe outcomes

Guarding Hearts and Reducing the Risk of Having a Stroke: Lifestyle and Stress

Dr. Anil emphasized that stress doesn’t directly cause atrial fibrillation, but stress hormones can increase its likelihood. He also highlighted the rising misuse of alcohol among the younger generation, which escalates both atrial fibrillation and stroke risks.

Dr. Anil differentiated atrial fibrillation from other cardiovascular diseases, explaining its irregular heart rhythm originating in the upper chambers. Dr. Vinayak emphasized public awareness and shared that common risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, and lack of exercise, can increase atrial fibrillation incidence. He stressed the significance of modifying lifestyle factors through healthy habits to mitigate the risk of this condition.

“Opt for diets like DASH or Mediterranean—rich in fruits, veggies, and nuts, low in fats and carbs. Keep active with 150 weekly minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercise, ideally 30 minutes over five days. Watch your weight—avoid sudden gains or losses—and exercise consistently with proper guidance. These changes are within our control, preventing stroke risks effectively,” said Dr. Vinayak

Taking Charge of Heart Health: Insights from the Experts

Dr. Anil delved into the effectiveness of heart rate monitoring wearables. While these devices can be valuable for diagnosing rhythm disorders like atrial fibrillation, he also highlighted that they might cause undue anxiety due to false positives, creating a balance between benefits and potential drawbacks.

“These devices can misconstrue noise or body movements as heart rhythm disorders. Seeking confirmation from a physician remains crucial when relying on such tools. However, they’re evolving and hold potential in the future for enhancing early atrial fibrillation detection. This could guide patients toward timely and appropriate medical attention,” said Dr. Anil.

Surprising Scenarios: Atrial Fibrillation in Healthy Hearts

The doctors confirmed that atrial fibrillation (AF) can occur in people without prior heart issues, a phenomenon known as “low atrial fibrillation.” Even with an otherwise normal heart, purely electrical disruptions can arise. Detecting and managing this condition early is safer and more successful, with lower stroke risks. Prevention through a heart-healthy lifestyle is vital to ward off atrial fibrillation.

Through a balanced combination of knowledge, practical guidance, and medical know-how, these experts provided a clear path for safeguarding our hearts. They dispelled misconceptions, tackled intricacies, and underscored the importance of mindful living in preventing the progression of atrial fibrillation. This exploration highlighted the profound value of understanding, acting as a guiding light steering us away from the shadows of unawareness. In their collaborative effort, these heart specialists paved the way towards heart health, presenting an opportunity to lead lives in balance and unity. 

This is a Partnered Post.

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