The Heart Can't Wait: What to know about AFib and COVID-19

What to know about AFib and COVID-19

(Family Features) As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people with certain health conditions may be delaying or forgoing some healthcare. People shouldn’t ignore symptoms or delay seeking treatment, especially when it comes to progressive heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation (AFib). In honor of AFib Awareness Month these are some things to know about AFib amid the COVID-19 pandemic:

Understand AFib

AFib is an irregular heart rhythm that can increase the risk of stroke and heart failure by five times, according to research published in “The BMJ.” AFib affects more than 5.5 million people in the United States, according to the American College of Cardiology, and may cause symptoms including, but not limited to, palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty exercising.

In fact, AFib patient and former professional tennis player, Joel Bailey, had repeated episodes of AFib before recognizing that something was not right with his heart.

“For several years, I had symptoms of anxiety and fatigue but didn’t know they were indications of AFib,” Bailey said. “As an athlete, I tried to push through but quickly knew something wasn’t right and I couldn’t wait any longer to see a heart specialist.”

Don’t Delay Treatment

Patients with AFib shouldn’t delay seeking treatment, even during a pandemic. According to the “Journal of Atrial Fibrillation,” AFib is a progressive disease that may become more severe if left untreated. Medications are often the first attempt at treating AFib, but if medications don’t work, catheter ablation is another option. 

Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure performed by electrophysiologists (heart rhythm specialists). According to research published by the Heart Rhythm Society, catheter ablation may improve quality of life and allow patients to get back to doing the things they love. In fact, a study published in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology” has shown that 88%* of patients were free of AFib episodes one year after catheter ablation when treated with a contact force catheter, and stayed within the preset range.

“It’s critical not to delay treatment due to the pandemic,” said Dr. David Lan, electrophysiologist and Bailey’s doctor. “A delay in treatment, such as catheter ablation, can decrease the success in patient outcomes or result in complications like heart failure.”

Bailey has no regrets about having his catheter ablation procedure amid COVID-19.

“I feel like I have more energy and I feel much better, mentally and physically,” Bailey said. “I feel like my old self again.”

To learn more, or to find an electrophysiologist near you, visit GetSmartAboutAFib.com.

*Success defined as freedom from any atrial arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, atrial tachycardia) 12 months post-procedure when operator remained in the preset contact force range. Further sub-analysis showed that when the contact force was within investigator-selected range ≥85% of time, success was increased by 21% to 88% (≥85%: n = 32; <85%: n = 73).