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Understanding atrial fibrillation (AFib): Risk factors, symptoms and treatment

Swedish recently opened the Swedish AFib Clinic in Seattle to improve quality of life and wellness for AFib patients. Sponsored by Swedish.

SEATTLE — AFib is an irregular heart rhythm, where the heart may be beating too quickly, too slowly or just in an irregular way. 

“What happens is when a heart is in AFib, it may not be pumping enough oxygen-rich blood out to the body, and that can have multiple complications,” said David H. Lam, M.D., Medical Director, Swedish Comprehensive AFib Network (SCAN).

AFib is a common condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that 12.1 million people in the U.S. will have AFib in the next 10 years.

Some symptoms to watch for include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, an irregular heartbeat, fatigue and lack of energy. Many people, though, don’t know they have AFib until visiting their doctor. 

“That’s why it’s so important to keep up with regular doctor’s appointments because we can pick it up by listening to the patient’s heart and checking their pulse,” Dr. Lam said. “A lot of times we pick up AFib that way and can treat it.”

Most of the time AFib is not life-threatening, but there can be many complications. The most common complications are blood clots, stroke and congestive heart failure. If AFib is caught early enough, these can often be prevented or treated.

Age is a risk factor for AFib, as well as obesity, family history, history of hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease. Sleep apnea is an important risk factor and trigger for atrial fibrillation as well.

The recently opened Swedish AFib Clinic in Seattle aims to provide patients with prompt, safe and effective care. 

“It’s a team-based approach, and the main emphasis for us is really improving quality of life and getting people back on their feet,” Dr. Lam said.

If you believe you’re experiencing an irregular heartbeat, make sure to not delay care and get checked out by your primary care physician. If you have been diagnosed with AFib, the clinic can help.

To learn more about the AFib Clinic, visit the Swedish website

Sponsored by Swedish. Segment Producer Suzie Wiley. Watch New Day Northwest 11 AM weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.com. Contact New Day.