Expert cardiology care to treat atrial fibrillation and protect against stroke
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common condition in which the rhythm of the heart is abnormal. In AF the pulse becomes irregular and the heart rate can be very fast, making you feel weak, dizzy and short of breath. If untreated, atrial fibrillation can increase the risk of having a stroke, so it’s important to identify it promptly and treat it effectively.
London Medical’s cardiac consultants are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation and other heart arrhythmias. If you are concerned about palpitations, your pulse feels irregular or you’ve had a TIA or mini-stroke, London Medical offers the latest cutting-edge cardiac investigations so that treatment can be targeted to correct your heart rhythm and safeguard your future health.
What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm in which the pulse is irregular and often rapid.
In a healthy heart, regular electrical messages make the chambers contract and pump blood to the lungs and around the body. In AF, these normal electrical impulses are disturbed, making the small chambers at the top of the heart (the atria) twitch in a disorganised and ineffective way.
The heart rate in atrial fibrillation often exceeds 100 beats per minute, making it difficult for the heart muscle to relax between contractions and work efficiently. Blood may collect in the large chambers of the heart, making clots form. These clots can break off and lodge in the small blood vessels of the brain causing strokes or transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs).
What are the symptoms of atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation can cause palpitations, where you’re aware of your heart beating rapidly or irregularly. You may also feel weak, dizzy, tired and breathless. However, sometimes AF can be silent, with people being totally unaware that their heart rate is abnormal until it’s picked up on a routine health check or following a stroke.
- It’s important to make an appointment with your GP or the specialist cardiology team at London Medical if you notice:
- A sudden change in your heartbeat, whether the change is consistent or comes and goes.
- Your pulse is regularly below 60 or above 100.
- You're experiencing dizziness or shortness of breath.
- Urgent assessment is essential if have chest pain or symptoms of a stroke like weakness, slurring or facial drooping.
Atrial Fibrillation testing at London Medical
London Medical’s state-of-the-art cardiology clinic offers the latest investigative procedures for patients with palpitations or irregular heartbeats. Some of the UK’s most renowned cardiologists provide expert assessment and treatment, supported by a team of dedicated cardiac nurses, ultrasound specialists, and physiology technicians. Tests could include:
- ECG recording
- BP monitoring
- Ambulatory ECG recorders to look for cardiac arrhythmias over 24-48 hours or longer
- Implantable loop recorder: If your symptoms are infrequent, a cardiac event recorder or cutting-edge implantable device can be inserted to identify abnormalities in the heart's activity over a prolonged period of time
- Treadmill exercise stress tests
- Blood screening tests to check for cholesterol levels and identify chronic conditions including diabetes or thyroid disease.
Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation at London Medical
he treatment of atrial fibrillation at London Medical involves treating any underlying conditions, correcting the heart rhythm, supporting lifestyle changes and protecting against stroke.
The cardiac physicians will consider the results of your investigations, your health and your lifestyle before tailoring a treatment plan to your individual needs. They will take time to explain any complications of treatment, address all your concerns and queries and provide support throughout. Treatment can include:
Anti-arrhythmic medication: Specialist drugs can help control the heart’s rhythm and rate. Digoxin, beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers may correct the rhythm, but often they work to control the heart rate, so that the heart can function effectively.
Cardioversion: A controlled electric shock can help restore the heart’s normal rhythm.
Catheter ablation: An area within the heart can be responsible for triggering the abnormal heart rhythm. This can be precisely destroyed by London Medical’s highly skilled cardiologists in a minimally invasive procedure, Radiofrequency energy is applied to the faulty cells, preventing the disordered electrical signals. Following the procedure, a pacemaker may be required to maintain a healthy, regular rhythm.
Management of chronic conditions: London Medical’s cardiac physicians are experts in identifying, treating and preventing cardiovascular disease. They will screen for chronic conditions including hypertension, thyroid disease, diabetes and hypercholesterolaemia so that any problems can be identified and treated.
Lifestyle changes: Stopping smoking and cutting back on caffeine and alcohol can protect your heart and reduce the risk of abnormal rhythms. You can also prevent stroke and cardiovascular disease by maintaining a healthy BMI, exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet that’s low in saturated fat. London Medical offers expert support from many different specialities, all under one roof. Whether you need a personalised weight management programme, nutritional advice or support with giving up smoking, London Medical can help.
Stroke prevention: Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of having a stroke in the future by four to five times. However, London Medical can help reduce the chance of problems and help protect against stroke. Anticoagulant medications can prevent clotting and thin the blood. London Medical offers traditional anticoagulants like warfarin but also prescribes the innovative new NOACs, which have been shown in clinical trials to prevent stroke in people with AF that is not caused by heart valve problems.
Dr George Amin-Youssef
Heart failure, valve and coronary artery disease, echo cardiograph. Exercise and stress echocardiography.
Professor Carlo Di Mario
Director Structural Interventional Cardiology University of Florence & Honorary Consultant Cardiologist Royal Brompton Hospital London
Dr Fadi Jouhra
Consultant Cardiologist in Heart Failure and Complex Devices at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Frequently Asked Questions
With more than 1 million people in the UK affected by atrial fibrillation, anyone can develop the condition. However, it is more common in the elderly and in people with existing heart valve abnormalities, cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure. Atrial fibrillation is also more likely to affect people with overactive thyroid glands and can be triggered by heavy alcohol consumption and smoking.
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