September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month. It gives you the chance to learn more about this complex condition that affects anywhere from 3 to 6 million people. It also helps answer the question, “How long can you live with atrial fibrillation?”
Atrial fibrillation is also known as an irregular heartbeat. With AFib, the electrical signals that are supposed to tell your heart when to contract and pump blood to the rest of your body short circuit. This results in a chaotic, rapid heart rate that results in:
- Shortness of breath
But not everyone has these signs and symptoms. In fact, some people experience heartbeats that can last a couple of minutes and Afib could lead to conditions like:
But if you’re wondering how long you can live with atrial fibrillation, remember there are already millions of people living with afib. The key to living a long life is having a good atrial fibrillation care plan. So, let’s look at some of the things you can do keep your heart beating regularly by controlling this condition.
Atrial Fibrillation Care Plan: Medications
If you’re asking yourself “how long can you live with atrial fibrillation?”, the American Heart Association cautions people that an episode of AFib rarely proves deadly. And with a good atrial fibrillation care plan you can live with it for years.
There are many types of medications that can help. They include:
- Medications to prevent strokes (blood thinners, aspirin)
- Rate-control medicines (to regulate heartbeats)
- Rhythm-control medicines (to regulate heart rhythm)
Atrial Fibrillation Care Plan: Non-Surgical Procedure
- Making an electrical "road map" of the heart
- Pinpointing the abnormal electrical signals
- Destroying abnormal heart tissue with heat from radiofrequency energy, disconnecting the tissue from the current
- Ending the atria's electrical storm and consequent fluttering
There are few risks. The most common problems result from the use of the catheters–long, thin tubes doctors insert into your arteries or veins. The problems are rare.
Atrial Fibrillation Care Plan: Risk Factors
When determining how long you can live with atrial fibrillation, it’s important to consider the risk factors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your risk for AFib increases with age. High blood pressure also increases your risk. It accounts for 14 to 22 percent of AFib cases. Other risk factors include:
- European ancestry
- Ischemic heart disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Heavy alcohol use
- Enlargement of the chambers on the left side of the heart
Knowing your risk factors will help you to control them.
Atrial Fibrillation Care Plan: Traveling
If you’re anxious about traveling with afib—don’t’ be. It is perfectly fine to travel with afib.
Just make sure to do a few things before you go like:
- Consult your cardiologist
- Bring your medical card and ID bracelet or necklace
- Pack extra medication
There are also some things you can do on the plane and when you’re away like:
- Moving around/staying active
- Drinking enough water (dehydration can trigger afib)
- Getting enough sleep
So, how long can you live with atrial fibrillation? Studies show no reduction in life expectancy provided a patient has a good atrial fibrillation care plan. Whether it’s medications, having a procedure, or controlling your risk factors, having a plan will help you live a long, heart-healthy life.
You can also learn more about the risks of heart disease by downloading our guide: “The Heart Disease Facts That Could Change Your Life.” In it you’ll learn what risk factors should matter most to you.