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Atrial Fibrillation Health Center

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Topic Overview

    How is atrial fibrillation diagnosed?

    The doctor will ask questions about your past health, do a physical exam, and order tests.

    The best way to find out if you have atrial fibrillation is to have an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). An EKG is a test that checks for problems with the heart's electrical activity.

    You might also have lab tests and an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram can show how well your heart is pumping and whether your heart valves are damaged.

    How is it treated?

    Your treatment will depend on the cause of your atrial fibrillation, your symptoms, and your risk for stroke.

    Medicines are an important part of treatment. They may include:

    Doctors sometimes use a procedure called cardioversion to try to get the heartbeat back to normal. This can be done using either medicine or a low-voltage electrical shock (electrical cardioversion).

    If symptoms keep bothering you, ablation may help. It destroys small areas of the heart to create scar tissue. The scar tissue blocks or destroys the areas that are causing the abnormal heart rhythm.

    What can you do at home for atrial fibrillation?

    Atrial fibrillation is often the result of heart disease or damage. So making changes that improve the condition of your heart may also improve your overall health.

    • Don't smoke. Avoid secondhand smoke too.
    • Eat a heart-healthy diet with plenty of fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fiber grains and breads, and olive oil.
    • Get regular exercise on most, preferably all, days of the week. Your doctor can suggest a safe level of exercise for you.
    • Manage other health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
    • Manage your stress. Stress can damage your heart.
    • Avoid alcohol if it triggers symptoms.
    • Avoid getting sick from the flu. Get a flu shot every year.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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