Living with Atrial Fibrillation

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Supporting you through treatments

Supporting you through treatments

Treatments in detail

Learning more about your treatment options and what they mean for you can help you feel confident that you’re getting what’s right for you.

Not everyone will need a hospital procedure for their AF but it’s useful to know what options are out there in case your condition changes over time. Some procedures may be more invasive than others or need to be repeated over time.

Cardioversions

Cardioversion is a procedure used to treat arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). It gives your heart controlled electric shocks to return it to its normal rhythm (also known as sinus rhythm).

The procedure takes place in hospital, where you’ll be given a short general anaesthetic or heavy sedation, before pads are connected from a defibrillator to your chest. The whole procedure usually takes about 10 minutes and your heart is monitored throughout.

Your guide to cardioversion

Cardioversions don’t always succeed in restoring your heart to its normal rhythm. It’s also possible for it to work for a while, before your AF comes back. If the cardioversion is successful, your doctor will either stop your anticoagulant medication, or decide to keep you on it, depending on your stroke risk.

More on cardioversions

Ablations

If medication isn’t effective at controlling your symptoms or episodes of AF, you may be offered an ablation(Link: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/treatments/ablation). It works by destroying the abnormal electrical signals and specific parts of the heart muscle that cause the arrhythmia. It takes 2-3 hours and recovery time is usually short. Some people will need to stay in overnight.

Your guide to EPS (electrophysiology) and ablation

Another type of ablation is called an ablate and pace. This is where you have an ablation that destroys the electrical pathway connecting your upper and lower heart chambers. This means you’ll need a pacemaker fitted, which will send regular electrical impulses to make your heart beat regularly again. While this doesn’t reduce your stroke risk, it could minimise the symptoms you experience from your AF.

More on pacemakers

AF and other health treatments

As you get back to life as normal after your diagnosis, you need to keep your AF in mind when you have other health treatments. Something like buying over the counter medicine or visiting the dentist may make you wonder about how this will impact your AF.

The best thing to do is ask. Tell your dentist, pharmacist and any doctors or nurses providing you with treatments that you have AF. Explain any medications you take and any symptoms you commonly experience. They’ll be able to support you and take this into account when advising you on treatments.

Some people find it helpful to carry a health ID or a medical alert card in case of an emergency. This can include details of any conditions you have and any medication you take.

Life on medication

Getting a new diagnosis and starting medication can leave you with a lot of questions, including:

####Can I still drive? Speak to your doctor about when it’s safe for you to return to driving, especially if you’ve had an ablation or a pacemaker fitted. Sometimes you’ll need to inform the DVLA and your car insurance company. Whatever your treatment, it’s best to wait until your symptoms have been under control for at least four weeks. If you have ongoing symptoms that affect your driving, stop driving immediately.

####Can I travel?

You should be able to travel as long as you feel well enough and take any medications you need with you. If you’re taking anticoagulants, speak to your doctor or nurse before you travel to another time zone so that you can adjust when you take your medication accordingly. If you need to be tested frequently to make sure your anticoagulants are working, try to find out if this can be done while you’re away. It’s always sensible to find out where your nearest hospital is and emergency contacts when you travel abroad. Make sure you tell your travel insurance company about your condition.

####When can I go back to work?

If you’ve been in hospital for a procedure, your doctor will be able to advise how long you should wait before returning to work. Some jobs involve machinery that can affect how a pacemaker works, so if you have a pacemaker, check with your pacemaker clinic that you are able to go back to work.

Read more on practical support

AF – the facts

There is a lot of misinformation out there about AF and its related conditions. Make sure you always get your advice from your doctor, or trusted sources such as the NHS, the BHF, or the Arrhythmia Alliance.

####Is garlic powder a cure for AF? It’s true that eating a healthy, balanced diet will help protect your health in the long run and reduce your risk of heart and circulatory diseases. But, there is no one food or food group that can work as a treatment or cause for AF. Some have suggested that garlic powder can treat your AF – but this is wrong, garlic powder cannot improve your condition.

####Stress is causing AF Stress can affect how you make lifestyle choices, particularly around diet, exercise, drinking alcohol or smoking. However, the feeling of stress itself doesn’t cause AF. However, looking after your mental wellbeing is important for everyone. If you’re struggling with stress brought on by your diagnosis or symptoms, don’t hesitate to speak to your GP, and turn to friends and family for support.

####I can stop my anticoagulant medication when my symptoms go away Even if you feel well, your AF puts you at risk of a stroke. Don’t stop taking any medications without discussing it with your doctor first. You may cause yourself harm by stopping without medical supervision.

Read more heart health myths

Download your AF guide

Our booklet tells you more about diagnosis, treatments and living with AF. AF quick guide

Download or order our AF booklet

Next: Making lifestyle changes

What we will cover next:

  • How to deal with AF-associated tiredness and fatigue.
  • What you need to know about caffeine, alcohol or smoking.
  • How AF impacts on your activity levels and what you can do about it.

Content on HealthUnlocked does not replace the relationship between you and doctors or other healthcare professionals nor the advice you receive from them.

Never delay seeking advice or dialling emergency services because of something that you have read on HealthUnlocked.