When taking any medication for any sort of heart condition, it is important to continue taking the medication— unless your primary physician advises otherwise—and to track your medication intake. Discontinuing any medication, even if you believe you are feeling better, may cause your condition to worsen.
Atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF) is often dealt with through medications. AFib is when your blood clots, which can then lead to a heart attack or stroke. Most medications for AFib will be used in combination; a medication to prevent blood clots as well as a medication to control the heart rate and rhythm. Occasionally you may also need another medication for other concurring conditions.
While a goal of any given atrial fibrillation medication is to reestablish a normal heart rate, the longer AFib goes untreated, the harder it will be to do so.
Most AFib medications are various types of blood thinners, rate controllers, and rhythm controllers.
Blood thinners are given to help prevent blood clots from forming, or in some cases, to treat an existing blood clot. Blood thinner medications include warfarin and other anticoagulants (such as dabigatran, rivaroxaban, edoxaban, and apixaban), and, in rare cases, aspirin.
Aspirin, an antiplatelet, may increase your risk of bleeding. You must not go over your prescribed dosage. Anticoagulants also increase the risk of bleeding.
Heart rate-controlling medications include beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin. Beta blockers slow the heart rate. Calcium channel blockers also slow the heart rate, in addition to reducing the strength of muscle cell contractions. Digoxin slows down the rate at which electrical currents are conducted from the atria to the ventricle.
Heart rhythm-controlling medications will be taken once the heart rate is under control. These medications work to restore a regular heart rhythm. Sodium channel blockers will slow the heart’s ability to conduct electricity. Finally, potassium channel blockers slow down the electrical signals that cause AFib.
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