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Saturday, June 15, 2024

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This Year’s Hot Holiday Gift – From and For the Heart 

Dr. Akula. N. Devender

By From AtlantiCare's Cardiac Team

For some people, the good tidings of the holiday season are often accompanied by something not quite so merry—atrial fibrillation (commonly referred to as AFib). 
AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s (ARMC) Heart Institute in Pomona and AtlantiCare Physician Group Cardiology in AtlantiCare’s Health Park in Cape May Court House typically see an increase in new and worsening AFib cases every year from Thanksgiving until the first few weeks into January. Left untreated, AFib, an arrhythmia in which the upper chambers of the heartbeat irregularly, can lead to blood clots, heart failure, stroke and heart attack.
“This time of year, we see increases across the board, including individuals who need emergency, in-patient and outpatient care for AFib, as well as new onset cases and worsening cases in people who have previously experienced AFib,” said Devender Akula, M.D., medical director, the Heart Institute’s Electrophysiology Lab. “Holiday festivities and preparations can distract people who have AFib from managing it appropriately. People experiencing AFib are often so wrapped up in holiday happenings or taking care of others that they delay getting care for themselves. This can lead to more challenging health complications.”
It makes sense that healthcare providers tend to treat more AFib patients this time of year because some of the key contributors to the arrhythmia run parallel to holiday activities.
“Because AFib can, and does, strike people who are otherwise healthy, it’s important for everyone to make positive choices by limiting or eliminating alcohol, smoking and caffeine; and enjoying rich and salty holiday foods only in moderation,” said Akula. “Taking brisk holiday walks in your neighborhood, along beaches or on boardwalks, at the Washington Street Mall in Cape May or in the Cape May County Park is a great way to exercise heart care. Also, practice stress-reducing exercises and build sufficient, quality sleep time into your schedule.”
Additional tips AtlantiCare’s cardiac care team offers for avoiding hospitalization or worse from AFib include:
– Recognize signs and symptoms of AFib and seek immediate care if they are unusual, extreme or persistent. These include palpitations; lightheadedness or dizziness; progressive fatigue; shortness of breath; and chest discomfort, pressure or pain. Several of the most popular brands of smartwatches monitor heartbeat and provide an alert if they detect AFib.
– Be aware of your AFib risk factors. These include getting older; having high blood pressure, diabetes, ischemic heart disease or heart failure, hyperthyroidism or chronic lung disease; and being obese.
– Proactively manage AFib. Take prescribed medications on schedule—without exception. Maintain regular primary, cardiology and other healthcare visits your provider recommends.
– Protect yourself from getting sick. Viral, respiratory and other illnesses can contribute to AFib, so be sure to get your 2022/2023 flu and other vaccines and be fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. Other tips to prevent illness include washing your hands frequently, staying home if you are sick or not feeling well, and disinfecting commonly used surfaces at home and work. Lastly, if you are sick or you have worsening chronic conditions, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. AtlantiCare offers same-day primary care “Virtualist” appointments seven days a week, to make it convenient for you to get care even if your primary care provider is not available.
“If you have AFib, you can enjoy holiday fun by practicing moderation and listening to your body and paying attention to signals your body sends you that could indicate something is wrong,” said Akula. “Taking proactive steps and heeding your heart’s symptoms could lead to the gift of your celebrating many holidays with loved ones in the future.”
ARMC’s Heart Institute team uses the latest techniques to diagnose and treat atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias. Learn more about prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for AFib and other arrhythmias, or make an appointment with a healthcare provider by visiting atlanticare.org/afib or calling 1-888-569-1000.

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