What is Afib or Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation, often referred to as Afib, is a cardiovascular disorder affecting as many as 3 million Americans. It is caused by a disturbance of the heart’s naturally rhythmic electrical impulses. When atrial fibrillation occurs, the two small upper chambers of the heart - the atria - quiver instead of beating effectively. A person with atrial fibrillation may have discomfort, palpitations (“fluttering”), or feel lightheaded.
Because the blood is not pumped completely out of the upper chambers, the individual with this condition faces a greater risk of blood pooling and clotting within the heart. A stroke can result when a piece of the clot travels from the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain. It’s estimated that about 15 percent of strokes occur in people who have atrial fibrillation. In some cases, atrial fibrillation can lead to heart failure.
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Symptoms of Afib:
- Pulse that feels rapid, racing, pounding, fluttering, or too slow
- Pulse that feels regular or irregular
- Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness, light-headedness
Symptoms may begin or stop suddenly. This is because atrial fibrillation may stop or start on its own. The odds of developing atrial fibrillation rise with age. The American Heart Association reports that three to five percent of people ages 65 and older have atrial fibrillation. Source: americanheart.org
Treatments for Afib include:
- Blood thinning medication to prevent clots
- Medication to control heart rate or rhythm
- Radiofrequency catheter ablation or cryoablation
- Pacemakers and defibrillators used in combination with medicines or catheter ablation
- Open heart surgery