September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month, so we would like to do our part by sharing valuable information related to this common heart condition. The following insights are particularly valuable to risk managers and facility managers seeking ways to safeguard their staff and visitors from this potentially life-threatening condition.
What is atrial fibrillation?
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of heart arrhythmia. It presents itself as a fluttering heartbeat and is caused by the abnormal firing of electrical impulses that make the atria — the heart’s top chambers — quiver, or fibrillate. The CDC estimates that between 2.7 million and 6.1 million people in the United States have AFib. This is a particularly alarming statistic as AFib is associated with a five-times-greater risk for stroke, according to this American Heart Association article.
Who is most susceptible to AFib?
As listed by the Mayo Clinic, the following factors influence whether or not a person is considered at risk for atrial fibrillation.
- Aging increases the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
- Heart issues such as valve problems or coronary artery disease increase the risk of developing AFib.
- Chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, or lung disease put a person at a greater risk.
- A family history of atrial fibrillation increases the risk of developing AFib.
The previously referenced CDC article states that more than 454,000 hospitalizations with AFib as the primary diagnosis happen each year in the United States. As such, facility and risk managers should know the signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation.
What are the symptoms of AFib?
In addition to “fluttering” of the heart’s atria, the following symptoms are signs that a person may be suffering from AFib:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness, anxiety, and shortness of breath
- Fatigue induced by exercise
- Chest pain or pressure
As some patients don’t experience any symptoms, atrial fibrillation can go undetected. This is why it’s important that your staff have regular physical examinations.
How can AFib be treated?
Generally, treatment for AFib is not to treat the condition, but rather the results of the condition, such as a stroke. An AFib-related stroke is when a blood clot forms in the little ear-like appendage — called the auricle — on top of the left atrium. This clot can then break off into the left ventricle and be carried to the brain, where it may block off intracranial arteries and cause a stroke.
The CDC recommends blood-thinning medicine to prevent blood clots from forming and to reduce the risk of a stroke. In addition, the Cardiology Advisor lists beta-blockers as a primary therapy for heart rate control. Cardioversion and ablation are two treatments that can be employed to treat atrial fibrillation (as mentioned in Non-surgical Procedures for Atrial Fibrillation by the AHA).
Be prepared for all AFib outcomes
While atrial fibrillation does not normally lead to ventricular fibrillation — which would necessitate the use of an AED — it is possible, so it is incumbent on you as a manager to ensure that your bases are covered for emergencies. Not only do you need to train staff appropriately and implement the necessary emergency protocols, but you also need to ensure your emergency medical equipment is maintained and in proper working order.
Our future-forward solution makes it easy to keep your AEDs inspected and maintained, your consumables up to date, and your volunteer responders trained. Our PlusLearning™ national network of experienced, certified trainers are ready to provide AED, CPR, and first aid training online or in smaller classes.
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