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  • Written By:Dr. Michael Liston

Looking through the news always results in something novel about cardiovascular disease. Researchers continue to discover new aspects about the conditions behind and associated with heart disease and stroke (the number one and number five killers of Americans). Atrial fibrillation, better known as AFib, is one of those aspects.

AFib is often described as a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). This condition can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. When AFib occurs, the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly — out of coordination with lower two chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. Symptoms of AFib often include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness.

Updated from 2014 and published in February, the 2019 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association/Heart Rhythm Society Guidelines for the Management of Patients with Atrial Fibrillation include management of AFib in a variety of scenarios and are written to guide practitioners across the entire spectrum of medicine. The updated guidelines address managing AFib in patients who have had a heart to the importance of weight-loss and management in improving the outcomes of patients with AFib.

While there are many factors that are out of our control when it comes to heart disease, I like to focus on the we can control. Below are a few of the factors we now know to be effective in avoiding cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” can help you in that goal.

  • Manage Blood Pressure- High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys which keeps you healthier longer. Learn how to manage your blood pressure.
  • Control Cholesterol- High cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages. Learn how to control your cholesterol.
  • Reduce Blood Sugar -Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use for energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. Learn how to reduce your blood sugar.
  • Get Active – Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life. Learn how to get active. April is Physical Activity Month!
  • Eat Better -A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy – for life! Learn how to eat better.
  • Lose Weight – When you shed extra fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. You give yourself the gift of active living, you lower your blood pressure and you help yourself feel better, too. Learn how to lose weight.
  • Stop Smoking – Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Learn how to stop smoking.

Start small. And keep it simple. Make just one change today and soon, you’ll be ready to make another. Before you know it you’ll be living life more fully than you might ever have thought. You’re worth it. Finally, if you want to learn more about AFib, I’ll be hosting a seminar on Tuesday, April 16, at St. Mary’s Medical Center, from 6 – 7 p.m. in the Education Center. If you’d like to learn more or register, contact Alex Colley at or 816-655-5365.