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Atrial fibrillation

What is atrial fibrillation?

  •  A heart condition that consists of an irregular and often rapid heartbeat
  • 150,000 Belgians are affected
  • 1 in 5 strokes is the result of untreated atrial fibrillation.

A little semantics
Fibrillation: rapid, irregular and unsynchronised contractions of muscle fibres.

Auricular: refers to the atrium of the heart, one of the heart chambers that pumps blood to the ventricle.

The heart contracts an average of 70 times per minute at rest to circulate blood. The heart rhythm, when normal, should be regular. In the case of atrial fibrillation, the heart goes into overdrive and starts beating completely irregularly.

Over the age of 40, the probability of developing atrial fibrillation is 1 in 4. Without adequate treatment, the risk of stroke is increased (up to 5 times).

What are the symptoms of AF?

1/3 of patients feel nothing 2/3
complain of :

  • Palpitations
  • Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

As a rule, we don’t feel our heartbeat unless we are under stress or making an intense effort.

Check your own pulse (heartbeat)

  • Sitting, resting for 5 minutes
  • Put your palm towards you
  • Place 3 fingers (index, middle and ring) at the base of the thumb and wrist bone
  • Lightly press the area with your 3 fingers to feel the pulses (Move the 3 fingers if necessary)
  • Count the pulses for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 to get the pulses per minute

A rhythm is regular if it beats like the ticking of a clock with a frequency of 50 to 100/minute.

If it is irregular or beyond the 50/100 limits, you should be diagnosed by your GP.

Ten tips to control your atrial fibrillation and prevent a stroke

  1. Check your blood pressure regularly: above 14/9, discuss with your doctor how to lower it.
  2. Take your pulse regularly. If in doubt or if you have symptoms, ask your doctor to rule out atrial fibrillation.
  3. Control your cholesterol.
  4. Regularly check your blood sugar (diabetes) to rule out diabetes.
  5. Stop smoking.
  6. Alcohol in moderation.
  7. Plan regular physical activity and at least 30 minutes of brisk walking per day.
  8. Eat less fat, better fat (less animal fat), less salt and 400 grams or portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
  9. Talk to your doctor about risk factors for stroke and how to reduce your risk.
  10. If you have been prescribed medication (anticoagulant or antiarrhythmic), understand the reason for the treatment and especially the importance of taking your medication regularly and at a fixed time