Screening and Prevention

Typically doctors screen for atrial fibrillation only when you have symptoms. However, your doctor may check for signs of atrial fibrillation as part of your regular medical care. Screening tests include checking your pulse or recording your heart’s electrical activity. Your doctor may recommend healthy lifestyle changes to help you lower your risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

Screening tests and results

Screening may be part of your regular care if you are 65 or older or if you have other risk factors.

  • Your doctor may check your pulse. Even without symptoms, your heart may have an irregular speed or faulty rhythm that your doctor can detect.
  • If you have had a stroke and there is no clear cause, your doctor may recommend screening for atrial fibrillation with a Holter or event monitor.
  • Several devices are now available to detect and record your heart’s rhythm similar to an electrocardiogram (EKG). These devices may also email the data to your doctor.

Prevention strategies

To help you lower your risk of atrial fibrillation, your doctor may recommend certain heart-healthy lifestyle changes, including aiming for a healthy weight, being physically active, controlling your blood sugar, limiting alcohol, lowering your blood pressure, managing stress, and quitting smoking.

In addition, some illegal drugs, such as cocaine, can trigger atrial fibrillation or make it worse. Ask your doctor for help avoiding these triggers to prevent arrhythmia.

If you are having heart surgery, your medical team will monitor you. To prevent arrhythmia, your doctor may recommend antiarrhythmic medicine or treatment to maintain or supplement electrolyte levels during or after the procedure.

Look for

  • Diagnosis will explain tests and procedures that your doctor may use to diagnose types of atrial fibrillation.
  • Living With will discuss what your doctor may recommend to prevent your atrial fibrillation from recurring, getting worse, or causing complications.
  • Research for Your Health will discuss how we are using current research and advancing research to prevent atrial fibrillation.
  • Participate in NHLBI Clinical Trials will explain our open and enrolling clinical studies that are investigating prevention strategies for atrial fibrillation.