You may have been in the hospital because you have atrial fibrillation. This condition occurs when your heart beats faster than normal or in an irregular way. You may have developed this problem while you were in the hospital for a heart attack, heart surgery, or other illness such as pneumonia.
Treatments you may have received include:
Cardioversion (this is a procedure done to change the beat of your heart back to normal. It can be done with medicine or an electric shock.)
You may have been given medicines to change your heartbeat or slow it down. Some are:
Beta blockers, such as metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL) or atenolol (Senormin, Tenormin)
Antiarrhythmics (medicines that control heart rhythm), such as amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone) or sotalol (Betapace)
Taking Your Drugs
Have all of your prescriptions filled before you go home. You should take your medicines the way your health care provider has told you to.
Tell your provider about other medicines you are taking including over-the-counter medicines, herbs or supplements. Ask if it is ok to keep taking these. Also tell your provider if you are taking antacids.
Never stop taking any of your medicines without first talking to your provider. DO NOT skip a dose unless you are told to.
You may be taking aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), heparin, or another blood thinner such as Apixiban (Eliquis), Rivaroxaban (Xarelto), Dabigatran (Pradaxa) to help keep your blood from clotting.
If you are taking any blood thinner:
You need to watch for any bleeding or bruising, and let your provider know if it happens.
Tell dentist, pharmacist, and other providers that you are taking this drug.
You will need to have extra blood tests to make sure your dose is correct if you are taking warfarin.
Limit how much alcohol you drink. Ask your provider when it is ok to drink, and how much is safe.
DO NOT smoke cigarettes. If you do smoke, your provider can help you quit.
Follow a heart healthy diet.
Avoid salty and fatty foods.
Stay away from fast-food restaurants.
Your doctor can refer you to a dietitian, who can help you plan a healthy diet.
If you take warfarin, DO NOT make big changes in your diet or take vitamins without checking with your doctor.
Try to avoid stressful situations.
Tell your provider if you feel stressed or sad.
Talking to a counselor may help.
Learn how to check your pulse, and check it every day.
It is better to take your own pulse than to use a machine.
A machine may be less accurate because of atrial fibrillation.
Limit the amount of caffeine you drink (found in coffee, tea, colas, and many other beverages.)
DO NOT use cocaine, amphetamines, or any other illegal drugs. They may make your heart beat faster, and cause permanent damage to your heart.
When to Call the Doctor
Call for emergency help if you feel:
Pain, pressure, tightness, or heaviness in your chest, arm, neck, or jaw
Shortness of breath
Gas pains or indigestion
Sweaty, or if you lose color
Fast heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, or your heart is pounding uncomfortably
Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg
Blurry or decreased vision
Problems speaking or understanding speech
Dizziness, loss of balance, or falling
Camm AJ, Lip GYH, De Caterina R, et al. 2012 focused update of the ESC Guidelines for the management of atrial fibrillation; An update of the 2010 ESC Guidelines for the management of atrial fibrillation; Developed with the special contribution of the European Heart Rhythm Association. European Heart Journal. 2012;33:2719-2747. PMID: 22922413 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22922413.
January CT, Wann LS, Alpert JS, et al. 2014 AHA/ACC/HRS guideline for the management of patients with atrial fibrillation: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and the Heart Rhythm Society. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64(21):e1-76. PMID: 24685669 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24685669.
Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.