Swedish reimagines care for AFib

September 15, 2021 Swedish Heart & Vascular Team

Key takeaways:

  • Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, disrupts your heartbeat and increases your risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure.

  • The Swedish AFib Clinic offers the expertise of a team of specialists from different fields to help improve the health of AFib patients.

  • Learn how we’re reimagining AFib care for better outcomes.

[3 MIN READ]

Something — or maybe someone — that makes your heart skip a beat is a tried-and-true component of nearly every romantic comedy and a fair share of scary movies. But when the cause of your irregular heartbeat is atrial fibrillation, or AFib, it can lead to a serious plot twist for your health. We want your story to have a happy ending. Our experts are rethinking how we treat AFib so you can get back to the people and activities that you love.

AFib disrupts a beating heart

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 12 million people will be diagnosed with AFib by 2030. With AFib, a glitch in your heart’s electrical system disrupts the rhythm and speed of your heartbeat. As a result, AFib makes your heart beat faster than it should. It stops your heart’s upper and lower chambers from working together and prevents them from filling properly. This limits the blood flow to your lungs and affects circulation throughout your body.

AFib symptoms can come and go and many may not even notice them. Some people experience ongoing symptoms throughout their lives. 

AFib symptoms can come and go and many may not even notice them. Some people experience ongoing symptoms throughout their lives. For others, AFib goes away on its own and returns sporadically with little or no warning.

Without treatment, AFib can increase your risk of stroke. It may cause chest pain, heart failure or a heart attack. It can also increase your risk of forming blood clots if blood pools in your heart.

The condition does not always cause noticeable symptoms, but some people experience:

  • Abnormally rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

AFib can occur at any age. However, it's more common in adults age 65 and older. Treatment may include medication, electrical cardioversion to shock the heart into a normal rhythm or ablation to create tiny scars that divert and prevent abnormal electrical signals. At the newly opened Swedish AFib Clinic, our heart care experts are redefining AFib treatment focusing on lifestyle changes that improve your overall health and quality of life.

The Swedish AFib Clinic

Treatment at the Swedish AFib Clinic goes beyond just treating the symptoms of your disease. Our team of heart experts and clinicians, uses a holistic approach, searching for the cause of your illness and finding ways to address your health and well-being with a well-rounded approach.

We’re developing a whole-person wellness program that addresses a lot of the risk factors associated with AFib. Our goal is to link up patients with specialists right away.

“We’re developing a whole-person wellness program that addresses a lot of the risk factors associated with AFib, which include high blood pressure (hypertension), obesity, sleep apnea, substance abuse and metabolic conditions. Our goal is to link up patients with specialists right away,” says cardiologist David Lam, M.D.

Services at the newly opened clinic help patients manage their AFib with detailed, personalized care plans that consider individual health factors, needs and goals. Treatment includes a blend of lifestyle modifications, medication and interventional treatment for tailored, effective care. The results can be life-changing.

The team at the AFib clinic works with you to help you understand your risks, learn how to identify an episode and best manage your AFib. We have a full team of AFib experts led by a cardiologist and electrophysiologist to help keep you healthy. Dr. Lam leads the program along with electrophysiologist Adam Zivin M.D., nurse practitioner Marja Dempsey ARNP, and clinical program coordinator Christie Craig, RN.

“A focus of our program is on education and prevention, addressing risk factors for AFib that people don’t like to talk about,” says Dr. Lam. “For example, weight loss and a healthy lifestyle are going to have more long-term benefits than any procedure on its own. That’s the strength of this program.”

The Swedish AFib Clinic provides access to:

  • A personalized treatment plan that includes medication, catheter-based procedures, cardiac surgery, pacemakers and catheter-based devices
  • Clinical trials with innovative treatment options
  • Evidence-based, data-driven care
  • Personalized, leading-edge treatments and procedures
  • Rapid access to the Swedish Comprehensive AFib Network (SCAN) program
  • Specialized care in one location

“The American Heart Association recently published a position statement that finally recognizes that lifestyle modification should really be on the frontline of atrial fibrillation care, and that’s exactly where our clinic will focus,” says Dr. Lam.

Read more about treatment innovations in an interview with Dr. Lam and Dr. Zivin.

COVID-19 and heart conditions

It’s important to note that having a heart condition doesn’t make you more likely to get COVID-19. But having a pre-existing heart condition like high blood pressure, AFib, heart failure or pulmonary disease creates higher risk of more severe infection if you do get COVID-19. That’s because these heart conditions lower the natural reserves your body needs to fight the infection.

There are a few things you can do to take care of your heart and help prevent a heart emergency during this pandemic.

  • Keep taking your heart disease medicines (including your high blood pressure and high cholesterol drugs) based on your doctor’s orders.
  • Make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of those medicines.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have new concerns about your health, especially if you feel sick.

Most important of all, the American Heart Association says, “Don’t die of doubt.” If you experience the first sign of a heart attack or stroke, call 911. Don’t delay getting emergency care if you need it.

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Find a doctor

If you've been recently diagnosed with AFib, the specialists at the Swedish AFib Clinic can help. Call us at 206-215-4545 to schedule an appointment or visit swedish.org/AFib for more information.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult with a doctor or heart specialist virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow-up as needed. If you need to find a physician, caregiver or advanced care practitioner, you can use our provider directory.

Find out the latest updates on how we’re handling COVID-19.

Related resources

Atrial Fibrillation Awareness

Heart Disease: What women need to know

Where the heart is: one patient’s story

Voices from the frontline: Q&A with Drs. Lam and Zivin

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Swedish Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

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