CardioSmart Corner | Raising Awareness About AFib

September is atrial fibrillation (AFib) awareness month. With AFib the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia, this is a good time to remind patients about signs and symptoms, as well as help them understand their treatment options and involve them in care decisions.

As AFib progresses, it becomes harder to treat as symptoms become more severe. Patients with AFib also have a significantly higher risk of stroke. Among the treatment options: anticoagulant medication to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke; antiarrhythmic drugs, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers; cardiac ablation; cardiac defibrillation; devices to help treat arrhythmias; and/or surgery.

CardioSmart, as well as ACC.org, have several tools and decision aides to help both patients and clinicians both understand and manage AFib. Most recently, CardioSmart released new content focused on helping patients with decisions around anticoagulation management and bleeding risk.

With factors like cost, dietary restrictions, likelihood of medication adherence and lifestyle playing a role in what anticoagulation management strategy is best for an individual patient, CardioSmart developed an infographic (right side), as well as the following list of questions for patients and clinicians to go through together:

  • Why do I need an anticoagulant?
  • How long will I need to take it?
  • If I get an ablation for AFib, do I still need anticoagulation?
  • If I undergo a cardioversion for AFib, do I still need anticoagulation?
  • What are the pros and cons of the different anticoagulants? Which one is best for me?
  • What is my personal risk of stroke? How does this compare with my risk of having a serious bleeding event when taking this medicine?
  • Will I have any dietary restrictions?
  • What is my risk of bleeding?
  • Do I need to stop doing certain activities when taking this medication?
  • What are the signs that I might be having serious bleeding?
  • Do I need to tell someone if I need dental work done or surgery?
  • Are there any medications I should stop taking (for example, aspirin or NSAIDs)?
  • Should I let you know if I start bruising more than usual?

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