Have you heard of atrial fibrillation?

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Have you heard of atrial fibrillation?


It is the most common heart rhythm disorder. In France, it is estimated that 750,000 people are affected by atrial fibrillation. We will explain everything to you.


fibrillation atriale


© iStock
fibrillation atriale


We all know what defibrillators are. These machines restart the heart when the ventricles, the large chambers that propel blood through our arteries, fibrillate and cause sudden cardiac arrest. But it’s not just the ventricles whose rhythm can be erratic. The atria, which receive venous blood and expel it to the ventricles, can also contract quickly and disorderly. If atrial or atrial fibrillation, that of the atria, is clearly less alarming than ventricular fibrillation, it should nevertheless not be neglected. With the ventricles filling poorly, heart failure threatens. And as the blood stagnates in the atria, clots can form. They then risk causing the obstruction of an artery and therefore a stroke. ” 20 to 25% of strokes are related to atrial fibrillation », Explains Dr Jérôme Lacotte, cardiologist at ICPS (Paris-Sud Cardio-vascular Institute).

Often misleading signs

Persistent fatigue, feelings of anxiety, tightness, palpitations, or simple shortness of breath may indicate atrial fibrillation. The problem is, these signs are not specific. We readily blame aging, lack of physical training or stress. This is the case of Marie, 65, who attributed her shortness of breath to her overweight. Until this Sunday of 2020 when she collapsed, victim of a stroke …

Easy screening

In almost a third of cases, the disease goes unnoticed. A single gesture lets you know if you are concerned: taking the pulse. With three fingers placed on the wrist, the beats are counted. Other solutions, the autotensiometer, which measures not only blood pressure but also heart rate, or free apps on smartphones. More reliable but also more expensive, the connected watch. Between 60 and 100 contractions per minute, the rhythm is normal. Higher, it is necessary to consult.

A risk that increases with age

The origin of atrial fibrillation is obesity, tobacco, sedentary lifestyle, sleep apnea, hypertension, alcohol, diabetes … In short, all the bad habits and pathologies that damage the patient’s body. heart. Another risk factor, and not the least, age. In France, two thirds of patients are over 75 years old. In total, 6% of those over 65 are affected. ” With the aging of the population and changes in our lifestyles, this figure will double within fifteen years. », Estimates Dr. Lacotte. Note that the patients are mostly women.

Cure is possible

The first weapon once the diagnosis is made, anticoagulants, in order to prevent the formation of clots and therefore stroke. There are also treatments intended to regulate the rhythm. Finally, since fibrillation is due to an anarchic electrical stimulation of the heart, the radical solution is to destroy the responsible areas. After her stroke, Marie underwent this operation. ” With a catheter that goes to the heart, the surgeon cauterized the foci that were causing the fibrillation. The operation lasted two and a half hours. The next day, I was released from the hospital. Since then, I have not had the slightest attack and am followed by a cardiologist. »

Prevention side

Nothing like having a healthy lifestyle to protect your heart and preserve it from atrial fibrillation. From the age of 40, make sure you practice regular physical activity, eat light, get enough sleep, monitor your blood pressure …

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