How to Assess Your Risk of Developing AFib?

With atrial fibrillation (AFib) becoming so much more prevalent among the aging population and visible with all the advertising seen on TV for the new anticoagulants, it’s natural to wonder if you or any of your loved ones (husband, wife, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, etc) should be concerned.

The downside risks of having untreated AFib are great – stroke, heart attack and kidney failure.  You don’t have to wonder or worry to better understand your risk of developing AFib.  Some simple health risk assessments are published online by very credible organizations that can help you understand if you should be concerned.  Here are two that we know about that you can take online and share with your physician.  If you have any concerns about your health, don’t hesitate to speak with your physician immediately.

Everyday Health has a simple 10 question assessment available online to help you understand what risk you may have for AFib – Are You at Risk for Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke?

The Heart Rhythm Society assessment is just a bit longer with 11 questions, but most of them are very similar to the questions found in the Everyday Health assessment – AFib Risk Assessment.

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The Importance of Home Monitoring AFib

Updated 11/15/17

Atrial Fibrillation, or Afib, is a common cardiac rhythm disturbance that increases in risk with advancing age and affects more than 3 million Americans every year. (Hague, 2014) As prevalent as Afib is, patients don’t seem to be very aware of tools available to help them monitor their condition nor the benefits of taking a much more active role in the management of their Afib.

It is widely proven that Afib presents many health risks. The most concerning is the elevated risk of stroke for Afib patients. These risks increase drastically when patients are unaware if they are affected by or in Afib. Patients can get more involved and there are affordable heart rhythm monitors that accurately detect Afib available to patients that are extremely easy to use.

Dr. Robert Baker, who has been practicing cardiology for 18 years, has learned firsthand how failing to home monitor is detrimental to patients with Afib. More importantly, exploring any heart rhythm disturbances is key to discovering whether you are affected by Afib.

“The dangers of stroke increase in patients who are unaware of their Afib condition,” Dr. Baker states. “Nearly 75% of strokes associated with atrial fibrillation result in death or leave the patient permanently unable to care for themselves.”

Afib is a condition that should not be taken lightly. In addition to the risk of stroke, it can increase the risk of heart failure and overall weakens the heart muscles. Fortunately, Afib is something that can be monitored and managed with the right diagnosis and tools.

When a patient is diagnosed with Afib, they are often concerned about what symptoms they will experience and how they can manage them. “Afib is often asymptomatic and there aren’t many indicators that someone is in the arrhythmia,” Dr. Baker states. “Even after ablation, it is very important for monitoring to be ongoing as an outpatient.”

Heart rhythm monitoring products have improved the ability for patients to manage their Afib from home as often as they like and for very little cost. According to Dr. Baker, with reliable technology, notifying a physician when the patient monitors an Afib episode has greatly improved communication and control of one’s Afib.

“When choosing a product for my patients, ease of use and reliability are the most important components that a technology should have,” Dr. Baker states. “The AFibAlert has proven successful in reliably monitoring patients that have used it.”

At home monitoring can increase the quality of life in patients with Afib. It is important to manage symptoms, as well as monitoring oneself to detect episodes when there aren’t symptoms present or noticeable. Heart rhythm monitors with the ability to detect Afib are key to monitoring at home.

Sources:

Haque, Harisul. “2014 Guideline for the Management of Patients with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib).” Univ. Heart J. University Heart Journal 9.1 (2014)

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Dr. Robert Baker has been practicing cardiology for 18 years. His experience with home monitoring in patients has allowed him to learn the importance and necessity of outpatient AFib monitoring.

 

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Experts recommend screening for Atrial Fibrillation to reduce risk of stroke and death

New afib research from Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, demonstrates the importance of screening for atrial fibrillation.

Screening for asymptomatic atrial fibrillation (AF or afib) in people aged 65 and over and treating it with anticoagulant medications could prevent many thousands of strokes worldwide each year, says a top-level panel of experts in today’s issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.

About 10 percent of ischemic strokes are caused by AF that is first detected at the time of stroke. Asymptomatic AF which underlies these strokes is not uncommon and can be easily detected by simply taking the pulse, or by handheld ECGs that provide a diagnosis in less than a minute.

Statistics from the World Heart Federation show 15 million people have a stroke each year, nearly six million die, and another five million are left permanently disabled.

“Widespread screening for asymptomatic atrial fibrillation in people aged 65 years and above could cost-effectively reduce strokes and their associated disability, and help save lives,” says Hills. “However, this is not yet widely recommended in guidelines.

The White Paper calls for governments worldwide to introduce screening for all older people, at age 65 or possibly older. Programs could be run through GPs, pharmacies, or in the community, and could be carried out with pulse checking, a blood pressure monitor or, ideally, a handheld ECG device, the best tool for rapidly offering a firm AF diagnosis.

Hand-held device for afib monitoringAfibAlert® is one such handheld device that gives instant feedback with medical-grade accuracy and is FDA cleared for clinical and in-home uses. Find out more about how AfibAlert® provides quick and accurate screening in any type of environment.

The White Paper, Screening for Atrial Fibrillation, A Report of the AF-SCREEN International Collaboration, has 60 contributing authors: Circulation May 9th 2017 issue 19; Vol 135

Read the full article at stopafib.org >

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Preexisting Conditions Proven Riskier with Atrial Fibrillation

The first clinical research case-study of its kind found that patients with heart failure (HF) to be more at risk of death if diagnosed with AF, the American Journal of Medicine reported.

“Risk factors with the largest population attributable fractions of death within 90 days were heart failure (15.0%), malignancy (12.2%), and hypertension (11.4%). For example, assuming a causal relationship, if heart failure were eliminated, 15% of the deaths within 90 days would have been avoided,” according to the joint Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center case-study.

No up-to-date information about associated mortality risks for AF patients had yet to be conducted before this report, which aimed to set a baseline for the occurrence of atrial fibrillation (AF) in a 10-year period for a specific population.

The study focused on 3,344 Olmsted County, Minnesota, residents diagnosed with AF or atrial flutter from the years 2000 to 2010. Looking for both the prevalence of AF and survival rates among participants, researchers compared Olmsted residents’ data with correlating U.S. general population demographics.Medical examination

The analysis found that the incidence of AF in Olmsted remained stable, which was consistent with similar studies conducted by the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC) and Medicare beneficiaries during similar periods.

“A dramatic excess risk of death was observed within the first 90 days after atrial fibrillation diagnosis,” while survival during this time did not improve from 2000 to 2010, researchers concluded. Additionally, AF was shown to be riskier for patients with certain preexisting conditions.

“Current smoking status, prior myocardial infarction, heart failure, diabetes, chronic pulmonary disease, liver disease, dementia, hemiplegia/ paraplegia, and cancers.” By tracking both instances of occurrence and survival rates of AF patients, researchers hoped to “provide contemporary insights into the atrial fibrillation epidemic.”

Atrial fibrillation—a quivering, or irregular heartbeat— was originally deemed a rising epidemic in the late 1990’s as the graying of America started to take effect. The risk of developing AF increases dramatically with age and will have serious public health ramifications, as the U.S. is expected to have 6-12 million cases by 2050, according to The Lancet independent medical journal.

By Sydney Ellis
Sources: New England Journal of MedicineThe American Journal of MedicineInternational Journal of CardiologyThe LancetCardiology News
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Cardiac Care Post-Event

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By Sydney Ellis
Adapted from: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons, WebMD, American Heart Association, WebMD
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Special Holiday Discount!

final-holiday-promo

This holiday season Lohman Technologies is bringing back its special promotional discount on its best-selling product…

The original AfibAlert cardiac self-monitoring device–included with a 1-year warranty, web access, and customer support– originally retailing at $299 is now available for only $199!

Take advantage of this holiday special here, or view our other products here.

*limited quantities available  **price reduction only available December 2016

Graphics by Sydney Ellis
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New Study Associates Heart Attacks & Kidney Failure with Atrial Fibrillation

Patients, healthcare providers and payers now have more to be concerned with regarding health-insurance-medical-tourism-770x477atrial fibrillation (Afib) diagnoses. Increased risk of heart attack and kidney failure are now being associated to having an irregular heartbeat, according to an analysis of 104 studies spanning nine million people by the University of Oxford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The new study shows that atrial fibrillation has been found to increase the risk of death by 46 percent, ischemic heart disease by 61 percent, chronic kidney disease by 64 percent, sudden cardiac death by 88 percent, and major cardiac events by 96 percent. Oxford and MIT also found atrial fibrillation patients to be five times more likely to experience congestive heart failure, and additional correlations between Afib and underlying risk factors for cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and sleep apnea.

Atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat, is one of the most common types of cardiac arrhythmias, affecting over 6 million Americans annually. Afib typically occurs in the elderly population and has been rising as the primary or related cause of death for the past 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Anticoagulants, a type of blood-thinning medication, have been the focus of healthcare providers and the most widely used way to treat atrial fibrillation patients in recent years. A prescriber’s goal for anticoagulants is to keep the heart in a stable rhythm, reducing the chance of further complications related to remaining in a prolonged state of cardiac irregularity.

Although these blood-thinning medications have been shown to reduce the risk of stroke, the Oxford-MIT study reports that anticoagulants show “little reduction in mortality related to congestive heart failure and sudden cardiac death… It could be that rhythm control treatments might not have been effective at treating atrial fibrillation or that the treatments resulted in additional side effects that outweighed the benefits.”

The new side effects related to atrial fibrillation found by the Oxford-MIT joint study calls for healthcare systems to switch their primary focus to preventing and managing cardiovascular risk factors in Afib patients for non-stroke related events, as stroke is no longer of the upmost risk or concern for atrial fibrillation patients.

Although stroke used to be the most pressing risk-factor for atrial fibrillation patients, Oxford and MIT’s study revealed many, more pressing, related medical conditions. This new study raises important questions in the medical community about how healthcare systems treat atrial fibrillation patients and could have lasting implications for Afib research and public healthcare funding.

By Sydney Ellis
Sources: The British Medical Journal, The Telegraph, British Heart Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

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Afib Impacts Healthcare Systems

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5 Ways to Enjoy Summer with Afib!

Whether you’re having fun in the sun at a faraway destination or trying to keep cool at home, safety is always a priority if you have atrial fibrillation.  Keep your Afib in check by following these helpful hints to ensure you enjoy the most out of your summer!

  1. Keep to Your Regular Medication Schedule

Although the summer season drives us to relax in the sun and adventure outdoors, sticking to your regular medication schedule is one of the best ways to make sure your cardiac rhythms are regulated.  If you’re traveling, bring a little extra in addition to your normal dosage of your medication just in case, and don’t forget you’re portable AfibAlert home-monitoring device!  AfibAlert gives medical grade EKG readings to ensure that your atrial fibrillation is in check, giving you peace of mind to have fun in the sun instead of frequenting the hospital all summer.

  1. Get Your Steps In!

Summer’s warm weather makes it so much easier to get outside! To reduce your risk of blood clots and stroke partake in some light physical activity to keep active and increase blood flow. If you’re taking a plane to your travel destination make sure to stretch your legs and drink lots of water, high altitudes can exacerbate heart arrhythmias so taking the necessary precautions can help ensure you have a safe and relaxing flight.

  1. Join the Hydration Nation

Warm temperatures and UV exposure during the summer months can increase the effects of dehydration, a known trigger for Afib and heart arrhythmias.  Follow the 8×8 rule (8x8oz cups) to help get your daily recommended water intake!  Keep in mind that nothing replaces water as a hydrating agent, so instead of going right for that second drink have a glass of water in-between to stay hydrated, healthy, and to keep your Afib in check.

  1. Know Your Info

Knowing and being able to communication information about your medical condition is imperative when living with Afib, and is especially important when traveling.  If you’re on vacation this summer make sure you have your primary care physician’s contact information on hand, are aware of medical centers near your destination, and know your medication dose, type and frequency in case of emergency.  You may want to consider wearing a medical ID bracelet to clearly identify your medical condition and make sure to update your ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts to ensure your safety in a new environment.

  1. Eat, Drink & Be Merry, In Moderation

Don’t get lackadaisical with your heart healthy diet!  Stick to healthy foods and drink lots of fluids in higher temperatures and while on vacation.  Take advantage of this season’s produce and stock up on local fruits and veggies; they’re chock-full of vitamins and minerals, low-sodium and high in fiber content which helps fuel your body and kick start your metabolism.  Although we all love a piña colada by the pool, excessive alcohol intake can exacerbate cardiac symptoms, so regulate and hydrate!

Adapted from WebMD, MAYO Clinic & Everyday Health

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New “Pill in Pocket” Approach for Afib Treatment

A new study into treating atrial fibrillation by Dr. Francis Marchlinski and colleagues found that patient’s self-monitoring their cardiac rhythms through a smartphone app may be a promising new alternative to taking blood-thinning medication.

The study had patients monitor their pulse twice daily for 18-months, and only had patients take blood-thinners when experiencing, or were suspected of experiencing atrial fibrillation.  94% of study participants maintained their self-monitoring treatment in lieu of anticoagulant medications.  If you would like to learn more about the study’s research process and results, click here.

Dr. Francis Marchlinski, Director of Electrophysiology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, wanted to find a non-pharmaceutical way to regulate atrial fibrillation (Afib) because current medications used to treat this condition, while effective, can have problematic side effects.

A patient in Afib experiences heart-arrhythmias, which slow the flow of blood through the heart and increases the risk of blood clots and stroke.  The go-to method for reducing risks brought on by Afib has been anticoagulants—blood-thinning medications— but long-term usage of these drugs can put patients at a higher risk of bleeding that can turn something as simple as a paper-cut into a much larger problem.

“If you don’t need [blood-thinning medications] continuously, it’s reasonable to try to avoid them as much as possible,” Marchlinski said.

Of the 100 research participants, nine used a portable device to check their cardiac rhythms.  Self-monitoring devices are becoming a more widely-available option when treating cardiac arrhythmias by helping to keep recurring emergency room visits low and giving peace of mind to users.

Although, Marchlinski’s “as-needed” approach when taking blood-thinning medications isn’t for all atrial fibrillation patients.

“This potential strategy for intermittent use is only intended for patients with electrocardiogram-demonstrated control of atrial fibrillation, who have undergone an extended period of monitoring, and who are avid pulse-takers that can recognize their atrial fibrillation if it occurs… In other words, it’s a very select group of highly motivated patients,” Marchlinski said.

More research into the use of self-monitoring for atrial fibrillation must be conducted before being considered a widely accepted treatment option for Afib patients, but Marchlinski’s pilot study show promising results.

Please consult your physician before making any changes to your current medication and healthcare routines.

Adapted from U.S. News & World Report

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