Patients experiencing atrial fibrillation for the first time sometimes mistake their symptoms for a heart attack and call 911 or rush off to the emergency room. Once they’ve gone through it a few times, and understand that AFib is not high-risk in the short term, they tend to take a more relaxed approach. Some simply call their cardiologist or electrophysiologist so they can track the event. Others may be inclined to visit an urgent care center for an electrocardiogram or assurance that it’s “just” AFib. A study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine  reveals that such visits present a great opportunity for patient counseling and education. Researchers found that “regular drinkers” of alcoholic beverages who reduce their consumption experienced fewer AFib events. The 140 study participants consumed roughly 17 alcoholic beverages weekly at baseline. When they reduced or eliminated their consumption, their AFib episodes dropped off considerably, and AFib episodes that did occur tended to last for a shorter period of time. The take-home for urgent care providers is to ask patients who present with symptoms of AFib about their drinking habits. Share the findings of the study (and recommend that they follow up with their specialist).

When Patients Describe What Sounds Like AFib, Ask Them About Their Drinking Habits
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