The month of September marked atrial fibrillation awareness month. Atrial fibrillation, commonly known as AFib, is the most common heart-rhythm disease. It affects millions of people in the U.S. but is often less understood compared to other heart diseases such as coronary artery disease. My goal is to increase awareness about this very serious heart disease.

As an electrophysiologist, I specialize in AFib. I practice in the Greater Lake Houston area and have treated thousands of patients with atrial fibrillation, with more patients being diagnosed every day in our local hospitals.

So what is atrial fibrillation? Simply, it is an irregular heart rhythm. AFib makes one’s heart beat very irregularly and usually very rapidly. Patients describe the feelings of AFib in a wide variety of ways. Many patients feel their heart pounding or beating very hard and fast. For other patients, the symptoms can be subtler. Patients may just feel more fatigued or have more shortness of breath. There are even some patients who have no symptoms and their AFib is found purely by accident.

There are several concerns for those who have been diagnosed with AFib; however, the most serious concern is a patient’s increased risk of stroke. Essentially, AFib can lead to pooling and stagnant blood flow in one’s heart, which can lead to a blood clot. The clot can then move to the brain and cause a stroke. A person with AFib is five times more likely to have a stroke than someone who does not have atrial fibrillation. Fortunately, not everyone’s risk of stroke is the same. A scoring system is used to assess a patient’s individual risk of stroke, which then helps to customize treatment options. The most common course of treatment to reduce a patient’s risk of stroke is to take blood-thinning medications. For those patients who are unable to tolerate blood-thinning medications, there are also procedure options.

There is currently no cure for atrial fibrillation; however, there are a wide variety of treatment options available to help reduce a patient’s symptoms and risk of stroke. With proper treatment, patients experience improved quality of life and reduced risk of hospitalization. This is why atrial fibrillation awareness is so important and why I decided last year to create a website geared solely toward AFib awareness and education. The site is called Dr. AFib. Through educational blogs and videos, I discuss topics that affect patients with AFib. Educating patients and their families in an easy-to-understand format allows them access to better care and treatment options. I also answer real-time questions to help address my followers’ questions. For more information, please visit DrAFib.com or visit me on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as Dr. AFib. For new patient appointments, call Vital Heart and Vein at 281-446-3645. Together we can provide better education for patients and achieve better care for our community.