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What is the prognosis for atrial fibrillation (AF)?

Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
The prognosis is positive for those with atrial fibrillation. If you continue with good medical care, you can live a normal, active life and do the things you enjoy. Here are some tips to live well with atrial fibrillation:
  • Keep your doctor's appointments. Let your doctor know if you have new or different symptoms. Also, take all of your medications to your appointments so your doctor can know exactly what you are taking.
  • Avoid taking any medication, even over-the-counter drugs, without permission from your doctor. Some cold and sinus medications contain stimulants that can trigger palpitations or even atrial fibrillation. If you combine a decongestant with caffeine, it could trigger a deadly heart rhythm or atrial fibrillation. Always ask your doctor first.
  • Be open with your doctor. If you have side effects that are uncomfortable, let your doctor know. If your symptoms are not resolved with medications, your doctor needs to know. Sometimes a change of medication or dosage is all that's needed.
  • If you are taking warfarin (Coumadin) or any other blood thinner, be sure you keep your doctor's appointments. It's important that your blood is carefully monitored so you don't have too much, or too little, of the medication.
  • Do what you can to lower your risk for atrial fibrillation by changing your lifestyle habits. Ask your doctor about an exercise regimen, the DASH diet, and weight loss. Find out what you can do to prevent atrial fibrillation.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF), which affects as many as 2.2 million Americans, increases an individual's risk of stroke by four to six times on average. The risk increases with age. In people over 80 years of age, AF is the direct cause of one out of four strokes. Treating individuals who have AF with warfarin reduces their risk of stroke by approximately half to two-thirds.

This answer from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.