- What is NVAF?
The condition is known as nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF). It is the most common arrhythmia (rapid and irregular heartbeat) in adults. NVAF occurs when the electrical activity in your heart is disorganized and disrupts its normal, coordinated response.
- How is it diagnosed?
NVAF can present with or without symptoms. For some it comes and goes and for others it is a chronic condition. Some people receive their diagnosis when they go in for a routine exam, while others learn of their condition after having symptoms or a stroke. Other tests can involve electrocardiograms (ECG), heart monitors or echocardiograms.
- When do symptoms normally present?
The average age of onset is usually between the ages of 67 and 75 years old for both men and women. It also commonly affects men more than women. Whites are also more likely to experience NVAF than blacks.
- Is there medicine I can take?
Most patients take blood thinning medication, such as anticoagulants. This helps prevent blood clots that could lead to stroke. However, the method you and your physician choose depends on a number of your own personal factors. For some there could be an underlying condition that if treated could help relieve the problem.
- What are other ways I can manage this?
Controlling the heart rate and trying to prevent blood clots are the primary medical management goals. Other lifestyle changes are to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, quit smoking and drink alcohol in moderation. It is also very important to have regular follow-ups with your doctor.
- Will I have a stroke if I have NVAF?
The American Academy of Neurology estimates that 1 in 20 people with AF will have a stroke by the following year if they remain untreated.
- What are questions I should ask my doctor?
Write down the symptoms that you have been experiencing as well as your family’s health history (particularly heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure). It is also important to note recent life changes or stress that you’re experiencing. Make sure to also bring a list of all the medications and supplements that you are currently taking.
Caregivers and Family
- Is NVAF contagious?
NVAF is not contagious. It is caused by a disorder that causes rapid and irregular heartbeats.
- Should I take them to a specialist?
It is important that you make an appointment with your family doctor, who may then refer you to a cardiologist. It is helpful for a friend or family to go with the patient as it is sometimes difficult for them to remember all the information that is provided.
- What is the prognosis for someone with NVAF?
If left untreated it can double the risk of a heart-related death and can cause up to four times the risk of stroke.
- What are signs of stroke?
Use the acronym FAST to look for signs of a stroke. If you see someone experiencing Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty then it is Time to call 911.