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Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Disease

How Are Medications Used to Treat Atrial Fibrillation? continued...

Xarelto is also approved to prevent stroke in patients with AF not caused by a heart valve problem. It also increases the risk for bleeding. But Xarelto can also increase the risk of stroke if people stop taking it without medical supervision. That's the main warning in the "black box" on the Xarelto label. A black box warning is the FDA's strongest warning. Xarelto had previously been approved to prevent blood clots in patients receiving hip and knee replacements and in those with deep vein thrombosis.

The usual dose of Eliquis is 5 milligrams, taken twice a day with or without food. In a study of more than 18,000 patients comparing Eliquis with warfarin, those on Eliquis were less likely to have a stroke. In another study of people with atrial fibrillation who could not or chose not to take warfarin, Eliquis was more effective than aspirin at preventing stroke.

Lifestyle Changes for Atrial Fibrillation

In addition to taking medications, there are some changes you can make to improve your heart health.

  • If you notice that your irregular heart rhythm occurs more often with certain activities, you should avoid them.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol. Moderation is the key. Ask your doctor for specific alcohol guidelines.
  • Some people are sensitive to caffeine and may notice more symptoms when using caffeinated products (such as tea, coffee, colas, and some over-the-counter medications). Consider limiting your caffeine intake if you feel that it increases your symptoms.
  • Beware of stimulants used in cough and cold medications. Some of these types of drugs contain ingredients that promote irregular heart rhythms. Read the label and ask your doctor or pharmacist what type of cold medication is best for you.

Procedures for Atrial Fibrillation

When drugs do not work to correct or control atrial fibrillation, or when medications are not tolerated, a procedure may be necessary, such as: electrical cardioversion, pulmonary vein isolation, catheter ablation of the AV node, or device therapy.

What Is Electrical Cardioversion?

Electrical cardioversion frequently restores a normal rhythm, although its effect may not be permanent. After a short-acting anesthesia is given, a machine is used to deliver an electric shock through electrode patches placed on the chest to synchronize the heartbeat and restore a normal rhythm. Although this procedure only takes a few seconds, several attempts may be needed to restore a normal rhythm. A patient may need to be on Coumadin for at least three weeks before this procedure is performed. This decreases the risk of a stroke that can occur with the cardioversion.

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