Atrial fibrillation, also called AF or A-Fib, is one of the most common irregular heart rhythms. Approximately 5.6 million Americans are living with atrial fibrillation.

A-Fib is an abnormality of the electrical system of the heart. It is a rapid beating of the upper chambers of the heart, which prevents the heart from pumping blood adequately to the lower chambers.

An atrial fibrillation patient’s heart is not getting the right electrical signals to tell it when to contract or relax. As a result, the upper chambers can’t beat in a normal pattern, and the heart is unable to pump blood as well as it should.

Atrial fibrillation can cause weakness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations, which is when you feel like your heart has skipped a beat. A-Fib might also feel fluttery, or racing or pounding.

Having atrial fibrillation also raises the odds of stroke, kidney disease and heart failure.

Many risk factors contribute to the development of atrial fibrillation. Some of these include:

» Age

» High blood pressure.

» Coronary artery disease.

» Congenital heart disease.

» Congestive heart failure.

» Chronic lung disease.

While all of these risks play a part in the development of atrial fibrillation, another contributing factor that you have control over is your weight. Anyone who has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher is twice as likely to have atrial fibrillation. The good news is that this risk can be changed. Losing the extra weight can make a difference. In one study, patients who had lost at least 10 percent of their body weight were much less likely to have this abnormal heartbeat again.

What is BMI?

BMI compares your weight to your height to give an approximation of your total body fat. The total body fat is what increases the risk of diseases that are related to being overweight.

Your BMI can be determined by the use of a BMI chart that can be found online. Type “BMI chart” into any search engine to locate a simple, easy-to-use BMI chart. You should also discuss with your primary care physician what a healthy BMI range would be for you.

The best thing to do if you are overweight and likely to have atrial fibrillation is to lose weight. Getting to a healthy BMI will also help manage other health issues like blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Losing weight

Be patient about your weight loss. It will take time to do it correctly. Your weight loss should involve a lifestyle change you can sustain rather than a crash diet that leaves you feeling deprived.

Think about eating less and moving more. Lower the number of calories you eat and drink and raise the amount of time and intensity with which you exercise.

Work with your primary care physician on how you can do this safely.

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The physicians of McLeod Cardiology Associates can help you manage atrial fibrillation or other heart-related conditions. Dr. Prabal Guha cares for patients with McLeod Cardiology Associates in Florence and in Sumter at 540 Physicians Lane. Appointments can be made by calling 843-667-1891.

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