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What is silent atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation can cause subtle symptoms to come and go. These signs can be so vague that you don’t think it’s caused by a heart attack. You may consider yourself unhealthy.

But you may have atrial fibrillation and not even know it. Some people don’t have any symptoms at all. You may hear it called ambulatory atrial fibrillation.

Why diagnosis of atrial fibrillation is important

When you have this common irregular heartbeat, the upper chambers of your heart do not contract normally. Clots will form and then enter your brain to cause a stroke, so there’s a reason to have an ECG at home.

Whether or not you notice any symptoms, you may be more likely to develop atrial fibrillation if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • Older
  • hypertension
  • corpulent
  • AFib family history
  • binge drinking
  • Previous heart surgery
  • diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Lung diseases
  • Sleep apnea
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How alcohol interacts with AFib

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Is any amount of alcohol safe for AFib patients?

Wine is known for its heart-healthy antioxidants, a beer with buddies can be a great end to a stressful week, and cocktails will liven up a party. But heart health can begin to suffer when you drink, and rhythm irregularities like AFib generally don’t mix well with alcohol.

There is an undeniable link between alcohol and atrial fibrillation, as this recent study confirms. It seems that even moderate alcohol consumption can trigger AFib symptoms, turn paroxysmal AFib to persistent AFib, and make it more likely that symptoms will recur after a heart operation. Doctors agree that any cardiovascular benefits that come with light drinking don’t extend to AFib patients.

It’s difficult to know how alcohol will affect your symptoms – a lot depends on the amount and frequency of your drinking, as well as your medical history and medication regimen. Should you avoid drinking altogether? Here are some things to consider before you make that call.


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Alcohol’s impact on the heart

Although experts are still unsure how exactly alcohol interacts with heart function, there are some theories to explain the negative symptoms like heart palpitations and an erratic heartbeat. One has to do with the vagal nerve: this nerve that runs through the neck seems to respond to alcohol, and the more your drink, the more vagal nerve activity. This spike in vagal nerve response can spark an AFib event.

AFib symptoms can also come on when your fluid levels aren’t optimal, and alcohol can easily lead to such a situation. Since alcohol is a diuretic, it helps your body eliminate more water, and that can leave you dehydrated. At best, dehydration is uncomfortable; at worst, it can stress your organs, deplete your mineral levels, and ultimately trigger AFib.

Just as different medications can interfere with each other, alcohol can interact with the drugs you take to manage your AFib. Vitamin K antagonists like warfarin or acenocoumarol are particularly problematic when they meet alcohol: these blood-thinning medications can increase your risk of bleeding when you drink. Alcohol use can also cause warfarin to build up in the body , which may bring on another set of complications.

What are the guidelines for AFib patients?

Since there seems to be a direct connection between AFib and alcohol, the American Heart Association recommends that if you don’t drink already, don’t start. However, some people may be able to imbibe now and then, as long as their health history and heart symptoms agree with it. The key is to speak with your doctor about any concerns and be honest about your symptoms – this will help determine if you can have a drink or if you’d do better to avoid it altogether.

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Finding a balance

Heavy drinking and AFib are a bad combination – three or more drinks a day significantly increases your risk of an episode, and for every drink on top of that, your risk climbs another 8% . If you drink moderately (two drinks a day for men, or one drink a day for women), you might be alright, but your doctor may still suggest you cut down a bit.

If you want to include alcohol in your diet without drastically raising your risk of an AFib reaction, keep these tips in mind:

Take drink-free days. Binge drinking is definitely a bad idea, but even moderate drinking every day could contribute to AFib. Experts recommend taking two or three dry days a week to relieve the stress on your liver and your heart. Is water too boring? Fill a box with a variety of herbal teas and keep it on the counter so there’s a selection of flavors to choose from, which can keep things interesting.

Pay close attention to your numbers. When you live with a heart condition, you need to pay extra close attention to your body. This means not only watching for symptoms, but also checking key levels. Since alcohol increases blood pressure, which can interfere with heart function, commit to using a blood pressure monitor when you have a drink or two. If the numbers are high, that’s a sign to switch to water.

Top up your fluids and minerals. Alcohol encourages your kidneys to draw water from your tissues and pass it out of your body. But you’re losing more than water: important minerals like sodium and potassium, crucial for proper organ function, will drain out, too. Without these electrolytes, heart function will falter, so you’ll want to top your levels up with water and nutritious food. Sports drinks can be helpful, but they can contain a good deal of sugar, so go easy.

Pass on the nightcap. Good sleep directly impacts your stress levels, and the frequency and severity of AFib episodes. It follows that poor sleep can cause health problems, and alcohol can easily disrupt natural sleep patterns. An evening drink can calm you down in the moment, but it will boost your metabolism during the night, while your body tries to process the energy. That could translate into lots of tossing and turning, and more uncomfortable symptoms in the morning.

Moderation is key. Alcohol intake clearly affects your chances of experiencing AFib symptoms, so it makes good sense to take steps to reduce your drinking. Why not take the opportunity to examine your whole diet, and see what else could do with an adjustment? After making a couple of additions or subtractions, you could start to notice some pleasant changes in your energy levels and quality of life in a matter of weeks.


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Advanced Determinations: The Basics

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Whether you experience a heart palpitation triggered by caffeine or a serious cardiac event, any heart-related issue can be nerve wracking. At AliveCor, we’re always evolving our technology to help bring you the peace of mind you deserve Whether you experience a heart palpitation triggered by caffeine or a serious cardiac event, any heart-related issue can be nerve wracking. At AliveCor, we’re always evolving our technology to help bring you the peace of mind you deserve when it comes to your heart health. That’s why we offer Advanced Determinations, a feature within when it comes to your heart health. That’s why we offer Advanced Determinations, a feature within KardiaCare  that can detect a wider range of arrhythmias. In fact, our Kardia technology can detect more arrhythmias than any other personal EKG. Both KardiaMobile and KardiaMobile 6L can detect:

Having accurate, detailed information about your heart’s activity can make a big difference in your overall health. KardiaCare’s Advanced Determinations can detect common elusive arrhythmias that may otherwise go unnoticed if you’re not experiencing them the moment you’re in the doctor’s office. Advanced determinations puts a comprehensive history of your heart activity directly into your hands to share with your doctor. Our robust set of detections can not only bring you peace of mind, but may help your physician make the appropriate medical decisions for your health.

What does the Advanced Determinations feature do?

Our technology analyzes your Kardia EKG recording and provides an FDA-cleared detection (from the list above) that tells you what’s going on with your heart activity in real-time. Advanced Determinations upgrades the way our technology analyzes your EKGs, allowing for even more accuracy and a wider range of detections. This feature allows you to detect three additional heart rhythm abnormalities—Sinus Rhythm with PVCs, Sinus Rhythm with SVE, and Sinus Rhythm with Wide QRS.

Who can use Advanced Determinations?

Anyone with a Kardia device (either KardiaMobile or KardiaMobile 6L ) can use Advanced Determinations by joining KardiaCare . You don’t need a new device or even a new app.

Get started using Advanced Determinations with KardiaCare. Join today  for a free month.

Have questions? Browse our FAQs , learn more about each determination , or contact our customer service team for help.

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Can you spot AFib warning signs?

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Some symptoms can be difficult to pinpoint – here’s what to look for

Although only 1 percent of the general population is diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, the disorder is far more likely to strike people over 65 . That means your risk grows as time goes on, and in order to avoid major complications like stroke, you’ll need to know how to spot AFib early on.

When does a strange sensation warrant a trip to the doctor? That can be a difficult call to make. Although each case of atrial fibrillation involves an electrical misfiring in the atria of the heart, the disorder can affect different people in different ways. The key is to determine what’s unusual for you and commit to having any chest or heart discomfort checked out right away.

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4 little changes that can point to big problems

There may not be any noticeable changes in the earliest stages, but as atrial fibrillation progresses, many people start to notice some abnormal chest sensations. What starts as a little random flutter could soon become more frequent, and intermittent (or paroxysmal) AFib could become persistent or permanent AFib.

Chest pain is a good indication that something’s wrong, but when it comes to AFib, it’s not the not the only symptom to watch out for. Here are four other changes to monitor:

1. A racing heartbeat. Ever feel like your heart is about to jump out of your chest? This sensation is fairly common when you’re frightened or excited, but it can also be more than a natural physiological reaction.

When your heart is in fibrillation, too many electrical signals are sent into your atria, competing to get through the AV node – the gateway to your heart’s lower ventricles. This mess of electrical signals can result in a fast heart rate or an erratic pulse that alternately speeds up and slows down.

2. A fluttering sensation. The feeling that your heart has just skipped a beat is often nothing to worry about: heart palpitations are common, and all it can take is a fright or bout of exercise to bring on a “hiccup” in your heart rhythm. However, when unusual flutters start to happen more regularly, seemingly out of nowhere, your heart could be in AFib.

3. Fatigue and exhaustion. When your heart isn’t functioning efficiently, it can’t deliver an adequate amount of oxygenated blood to your tissues. And when your body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs, fatigue, weakness, and lethargy are common consequences.

Sometimes fatigue goes hand in hand with a racing heartbeat: it can be physically exhausting to deal with a high-speed heart, especially when it brings an adrenaline response.

4. Tightness in the chest. Many things can cause a feeling of constriction in your chest. If heartburn is to blame, the discomfort (though frustrating) generally isn’t too damaging, and an antacid can often take care of it. However, AFib can also cause a feeling of tightness in the chest, so make it a point to check out any unexplained burning sensation that doesn’t go away.

Like many diseases, AFib can spark other discomforts as it progresses. For instance, you could start to feel lightheaded or short of breath for no reason. Maybe activities that were once easy for you are now strenuous, and you feel groggy and tired when you wake up in the morning. These sorts of changes in your energy levels can be more serious than they seem.

Is it really AFib?

AFib symptoms are notoriously varied. Some people report sporadic fluttering while others complain of chest tightness. You might notice a palpitation immediately, but for another person the feeling can be so slight it goes unnoticed. The bottom line is that AFib can resemble a number of other disorders, such as:

Acid reflux. Stomach acid moving up the esophagus is to blame for the burning sensation that characterizes heartburn, and sometimes it becomes quite painful. In fact, some people have mistaken a severe case of heartburn for a heart attack.

Hyperthyroidism. A thyroid gland that produces too much thyroid hormone can cause heart palpitations, breathlessness, and a fast heart rate. This can lead to a host of uncomfortable feelings, like anxiety and irritability.

A panic attack. Panic or anxiety attacks tend to come on suddenly, with a surge of adrenaline that affects your whole body, sometimes bringing on painful or tight sensations in the chest. Your heart may begin to palpitate, and you might feel lightheaded, too.

Other heart disorders. AFib can mimic other disorders, like tachycardia and sinus arrhythmia. Congestive heart failure often presents with AFib, too. Any ongoing heart of chest symptoms call for a check-up – only a qualified medical doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis.

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Diagnosing AFib

Although AFib can be mistaken for a variety of conditions, it’s more about the set of symptoms rather than one single discomfort. Also, while a sudden, major change can spell trouble, AFib symptoms often come in cycles: you may notice a surge of symptoms, then nothing for a while.

Diagnosing AFib often involves an EKG (or ECG) to evaluate your heart rhythm. The sensors can usually pick up AFib irregularities, but only if you experience symptoms frequently. Paroxysmal AFib typically causes unpredictable and infrequent symptoms. In these cases, a monitoring device prescribed by your doctor might be a good choice.

If these first tests don’t turn up a positive AFib diagnosis, other tests are available. The key is to describe your symptoms clearly and completely so your doctor can narrow down options and understand how your discomfort may be triggered. The more detailed you can be now, the more accurate and personalized your testing can be from the start.

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Understanding cholesterol and heart health

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What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance found in your blood that your body naturally makes. You need it to build healthy cells.

You’ve probably heard about “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol”. But what does that mean? LDL (low-density lipoprotein) is the “bad” kind. It can lead to fatty build-up in the arteries, and may increase chances of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) is the “good” kind of cholesterol and can help protect you against those things.

If your cholesterol levels get too high, it may increase your chances of developing heart disease. The good news is that cholesterol can be managed through diet, regular exercise, and prescribed medications.

Nutrition tips

Your body produces all the cholesterol you need, but eating certain foods may bring more of it to the table. These include food groups like red meat, poultry, and dairy. Other things that are high in saturated fats and oils, such as chocolate, coconut milk and cake, can contribute significantly to high cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol food usually equals higher fat. So if you can, choose healthy unsaturated fats like those found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Rethink your diet to include more fiber, such as oatmeal or beans. Cholesterol is the proof—you are what you eat.

An active heart

When it comes to lowering cholesterol levels, activity goes a long way. Find forms of exercise you like and stick with your program. A good starting place is 150 minutes a week (about 20 minutes a day) and go from there. But don’t stress too much about the numbers—just keep on moving.

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People with high cholesterol may be prescribed medications to help lower their cholesterol levels. The most common of these are called statins. By blocking specific enzymes, statins block the production of cholesterol in the liver so less of it is released into the bloodstream.

What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?

High cholesterol itself has no symptoms—it can only be detected through a blood test. So regular screenings are important for everyone. And the older you are, the more often you should get checked.

When to see the doctor

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the first cholesterol screening for an average person should happen between the ages of 9-11, and every five years after that.

NHLBI recommends cholesterol screenings by age:

  • People under 45, once every 5 years
  • Men 45-65, once every 1-2 years
  • Women 55-65, once every 1-2 years
  • People over 65, annually

How do cholesterol levels get lower or higher?

Again, diet and exercise are two proactive things you can do to keep cholesterol levels down. Certain medical conditions may also increase levels, including diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and HIV/AIDS. Additionally, some medications may raise cholesterol levels, including those for high blood pressure, cancer, and irregular heart rhythm.

Keeping it in check

There are ways to keep your cholesterol in check, and many are in your control: Don’t smoke, exercise daily, eat a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, and try to maintain a healthy weight. You can take charge of your heart health with everyday lifestyle adjustments. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cholesterol levels and management tips tailored to your lifestyle.


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What is AFib?

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Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular heartbeat that occurs when the upper chambers of your heart beat out of coordination with the lower chambers, which causes your heart to beat either too slowly or too quickly. It is the most common heart arrhythmia, affecting nearly 3 million people in the US.

People with AFib are 5 times more likely to have a stroke and may also develop blood clots, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. If you experience AFib, it may feel like your heart is fluttering or skipping a beat. AFib can be detected on an electrocardiogram (EKG) , which records the electrical activity of your heart.

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How to know if you have AFib

Common symptoms of AFib may include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, or feeling dizzy or lightheaded. However, some people may not notice any symptoms, which makes AFib hard to detect outside the doctor’s office or without a personal EKG like KardiaMobile.

Because AFib can be hard to detect, and symptoms aren’t always predictable or noticeable, it’s helpful to have a personal EKG device that allows you to check in on your heart whenever you feel a symptom. Devices like KardiaMobile can record medical-grade EKGs and detect AFib from home, making it easy and convenient to manage your heart health. KardiaMobile is FDA-cleared to detect AFib and other common arrhythmias, including premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), Tachycardia, Bradycardia, and more. You can record unlimited EKGs, whether you’re experiencing a symptom or just want to check in on your heart.

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Managing AFib

Early detection and management of AFib is not only important for your heart health, but your overall health as well. Atrial fibrillation is commonly treated and managed in these ways:


People with AFib may be prescribed medication to help control the heart’s rhythm and rate.


In some cases, an interventional procedure called an ablation may be performed to prevent further atrial fibrillation.


A heart-healthy diet, frequent exercise, and reduced stress play important roles in the management of AFib.


KardiaMobile can help with the early detection of AFib, which may prevent serious heart complications.

Risk factors of AFib

Your risk of developing atrial fibrillation can be affected by several different factors. Common risk factors include:

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, accounts for 1 in 5 cases of AFib.

Smoking may increase your risk of AFib because it is associated with elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

Sedentary lifestyle. Lack of exercise and routine movement may contribute to an increased risk for developing AFib.

Heart disease —such as congestive heart failure, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, or history of a heart attack—may increase your risk of AFib.

Age The older you get, the more likely you are to develop AFib.

Family history. Your family history may contribute to your risk of developing AFib.

Talk to your doctor about AFib

AFib is a serious heart condition and a leading cause of stroke. But with early detection and proper management, it can be treated. When it comes to your heart health, your doctor is your best resource. Talk to them about any symptoms you may be experiencing and then learn more about how KardiaMobile can help you stay on top of your heart health from home.