Atrial Fibrillation

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat. It reduces your heart's ability to pump blood through your body, which means you do not receive enough oxygen. Atrial fibrillation may come and go, or it may be a long-term condition. It is important to treat and manage atrial fibrillation to help prevent a blood clot or stroke.


INSTRUCTIONS:

Medicines:

You may need any of the following:

  • Heart medicines help control your heart rate and rhythm. You may need more than one medicine to treat your symptoms.

  • Anticoagulants are a type of blood thinner medicine that helps prevent clots. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. These medicines may cause you to bleed or bruise more easily.

    • Watch for bleeding from your gums or nose. Watch for blood in your urine and bowel movements. Use a soft washcloth and a soft toothbrush. If you shave, use an electric razor. Avoid activities that can cause bruising or bleeding.

    • Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines you take because many medicines cannot be used with anticoagulants. Do not start or stop any medicines unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Tell your dentist and other caregivers that you take anticoagulants. Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you take this medicine.

    • You will need regular blood tests so your healthcare provider can decide how much medicine you need. Take anticoagulants exactly as directed. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you forget to take the medicine, or if you take too much.

    • If you take warfarin, some foods can change how your blood clots. Do not make major changes to your diet while you take warfarin. Warfarin works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, grapes, and other foods. Ask for more information about what to eat when you take warfarin.

  • Antiplatelets , such as aspirin, help prevent blood clots. Take your antiplatelet medicine exactly as directed. These medicines make it more likely for you to bleed or bruise. If you are told to take aspirin, do not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead.

  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your cardiologist as directed:

You will need to have blood tests or other tests on a regular basis. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Manage atrial fibrillation:

  • Know your target heart rate. Learn how to take your pulse and monitor your heart rate.

  • Control your blood pressure. Take blood pressure medicine as directed. Get 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.

  • Limit alcohol. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking increases your risk for heart problems and blood clots. Ask your healthcare provider for more information if you need help quitting.

  • Eat heart-healthy foods. These include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Replace butter and margarine with heart-healthy oils such as olive oil and canola oil.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your target heart rate is not in the range it should be.

  • You have new or worsening swelling in your legs, feet, ankles, or abdomen.

  • You are short of breath, even at rest.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:

    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face

    • Weakness in an arm or leg

    • Confusion or difficulty speaking

    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss

  • You have signs of a blood clot:

    • You feel lightheaded, are short of breath, and have chest pain.

    • You cough up blood.

    • You have swelling, redness, pain, or warmth in your arm or leg.

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:

    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns

    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm

    • Trouble breathing

    • Nausea or vomiting

    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Atrial Fibrillation (Aftercare Instructions)

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