What is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone with atrial fibrillation?

Rhonda Schreiber: I’d advise seeking out education regarding AFib, risk factors and treatment options. Treatment often varies from one patient to another. For the best chance at successful treatment, patients need to understand what led to their AFib and what the best treatment options are for them, and then become their own advocate. 

Michael Mazzini: Receiving a new cardiac diagnosis is a challenging time for patients. My advice to patients is to remember that tremendous progress has been made in diagnosis and treatment of cardiac disease. I encourage them and their loved ones to ask plenty of questions and stay as engaged as possible in their treatment plan.  

What do you believe is the biggest issue people face when confronted with a cardiovascular health issue?

RS: The hardest thing for people to do is change lifestyle habits, which are often the cause of heart disease. Whether it’s giving up smoking, dieting or just ignoring symptoms, it’s very hard for any of us to change the habits of a lifetime even if we know they are endangering our lives.

MM: The most common arrhythmia I see in practice is atrial fibrillation. Patients can present with a full gamut of symptoms, including irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, fatigue, chest discomfort or heart failure. Some patients have no symptoms at all. In terms of morbidity associated with AFib, the number one issue is prevention of thromboembolic stroke.

How do you believe this issue can best be combatted?

RS: Breaking a lifestyle habit requires more than commitment — it requires support. Patients trying to make these difficult changes should ask family, friends and their health care team to hold them accountable. The medical community can also combat this issue by increasing follow-up appointments and support provided in the out-patient setting.

MM: Prevention and risk reduction is essential. With atrial fibrillation, this means early and accurate detection of AFib as well as identification of other risk factors for stroke. In addition, women are at higher risk for stroke than men. In patients with more than two of these risk factors, their physician may recommend anticoagulation to prevent stroke.

How do you see the public's view of cardiovascular health changing 5 years down the road?

RS: In my years as a nurse specializing in cardiology, I’ve seen cardiovascular health become increasingly prominent in the public eye. I’m very happy to see upcoming generations learning the importance of making healthy choices as early as grade school. I foresee cardiovascular health awareness becoming a primary concern as the population continues to age.

MM: This is a very exciting time in cardiovascular medicine. There is a high degree of patient interest and engagement in their cardiovascular health. I think that is only going to increase with time, and we know that outcomes are always better when patients are active participants in their care.