Atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response (RVR) is one of the most common types of arrhythmia. It refers to a condition in which the heart beats fast and irregularly. This happens when the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria) are no longer in sync with the lower chambers (the ventricles).
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) usually does not come with symptoms, but it may lead to palpitations (faster heartbeats), weakness, and shortness of breath. While AFib alone is not fatal, it's still a critical medical condition that must be treated appropriately since it's linked to increased risk of stroke or heart failure.
Different types of atrial fibrillation
Medical experts have classified AFib into different types depending on the duration of symptoms. Treatments are prescribed based on the type of AFib that you have.
Occasional (paroxysmal atrial fibrillation)
Occasional AFib, also known as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, involves intermittent symptoms that typically last from a few minutes to several hours before the heartbeat returns to normal. In some cases, symptoms can last for as long as a week.
With persistent AFib you will need medications to control your heartbeat. In some situations, doctors may prescribe cardioversion, a medical procedure that restores the heart's regular rhythm. This is done by sending electrical impulses through electrodes placed on your chest.
Long-standing persistent AFib
With long-standing persistent AFib you will also have intermittent periods of irregular heartbeats, but such incidents will happen for a prolonged duration, usually longer than 12 months. Treatments for this condition usually include cardiac ablation. This involves inserting thin tubes called catheters into the veins and arteries. These tubes use heat or cold energy to make scars in the heart to prevent irregular electrical signals and bring the heart back to its normal rhythm.
Permanent AFib cannot be treated and will need medication to monitor the heart rate and avoid blood clots. Permanent AFib is a chronic condition that may continue despite treatments.
What are common risk factors of atrial fibrillation with RVR?
Certain pre-existing conditions can increase the risk of AFib, including the following:
- Heart conditions, such as congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, heart valve issues, or congestive heart failure
- Thyroid issues
- Kidney disorders, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions
- Hereditary factors
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Obstructive sleep apnea
How to diagnose atrial fibrillation with RVR
You can get an EKG at your doctor's office. There are also other options available that allow you to monitor your heart over a sustained period (around 24 hours) and provide your doctor with results.
Miniature devices such as the Holter monitor are wearable electrocardiograms that can oversee various activities throughout the day and record the heart's rhythms. Doctors will look over this information to check if there are any irregular patterns.
Medical concerns linked to atrial fibrillation
If you have atrial fibrillation with RVR, blood clots are a serious concern. The disrupted heart rhythms may cause blood to collect in the heart’s upper chambers (atria), which can lead to blood clots.
If a blood clot from the left atrium makes its way to the brain, it can cause a stroke. People who are 60 years of age or older are at a higher risk of stroke due to AFib, as are those with other medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure.
How to prevent atrial fibrillation with RVR
While not completely curable, lifestyle interventions can make a notable difference in reducing the risks of AFib. The following lifestyle changes can help improve the effectiveness of treatment:
Reduce caffeine intake. Regular intake of stimulants such as caffeine also increases your risk of AFib. Keep in mind that natural sources of caffeine like coffee and tea don’t show any link to AFib. However, artificial sources of caffeine, such as energy drinks, will increase your risk.
Get adequate sleep. Sleeping patterns have drastically changed over the years, with the average American sleeping up to two hours less than in the 1960s. Getting enough quality sleep can also help decrease risk. Studies recommend a minimum of seven hours of sleep for adults.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. Following a healthy diet that contains few sugar additives and processed foods helps lower your risk of AFib. Eating more fruits and vegetables that contain natural antioxidants can be helpful.
Manage your stress. Prolonged feelings of anger, sadness, stress, and anxiety can increase your risk. Yoga is one way to help reduce symptomatic atrial fibrillation incidents and improve emotional well-being.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction also helps reduce psychological and physiological stress.
Move more. Low-intensity physical activity such as walking, exercising, and yoga reduces the risk of AFib. But don't go too hard. Professional athletes who regularly perform strenuous physical exercises are at an increased risk of AFib.
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Cureus Journal of Medical Science: "Ten Lifestyle Modification Approaches to Treat Atrial Fibrillation."
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International Journal of Yoga: "Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life."
Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine: "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a Stress Management Intervention for Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review."
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