What is AFib, or Atrial Fibrillation?

What is AFib, or Atrial Fibrillation?


Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. Some people refer to AF as a quivering heart. An estimated 2.7 million Americans are living with AF.

Here’s how patients have described their experience:

“My heart flip-flops, skips beats, and feels like it’s banging against my chest wall, especially if I’m carrying stuff up my stairs or bending down.” "

I was nauseated, light-headed, and weak. I had a really fast heartbeat and felt like I was gasping for air.”

“I had no symptoms at all. I discovered my AF at a regular check-up. I’m glad we found it early.”

 

What happens during AFib?


Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly (quiver) instead of beating effectively to move blood into the ventricles. About 15–20 percent of people who have strokes have this heart arrhythmia.

“Anything that allows blood to slow down or pool increases the risk of clotting, and so increases the risk of stroke,” says Dr. Steve Roach, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at Wake Forest University Medical School.

If a clot breaks off, enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain, a stroke results.“ This clot risk is why patients with this condition are put on blood thinners. People with atrial fibrillation have an increased stroke risk of about five percent per year.”

It's the most common "serious" heart rhythm abnormality in people over the age of 65 years. Even though untreated atrial fibrillation doubles the risk of heart-related deaths and causes a 4–5-fold increased risk for stroke, many patients are unaware that AF is a serious condition.

Watch an animation of atrial fibrillation.

According to the 2009 “Out of Sync” survey:

  • Only 33% of AF patients think atrial fibrillation is a serious condition
  • Less than half of AF patients believe they have an increased risk for stroke or heart-related hospitalizations or death


AFib Treatment Saves Lives & Lowers Risks


If you or someone you love has atrial fibrillation, learn more about what AFib is, why treatment can save lives, and what you can do to reach your goals, lower your risks and live a healthy life.

If you think you may have atrial fibrillation, here are your most important steps:

  1. 1. Know the symptoms
  2. 2. Get the right treatment
  3. 3. Reduce risks for stroke and heart failure


We’re here to help you live your healthiest life!

Recent Discussions From The Newly Diagnosed Forum
SinusRhythm avatar

Hi.

I've been recently diagnosed with A Fib.  I was diagnosed in December 2017.  Went to the ER and ended up being admitted for 2 nights.  I'm now taking Cardizem 270mg 1 capsule daily.  Also Metoprolol 25mg twice a day and Eliquis 5mg twice a day.  What I've noticed in the past few weeks is that I'm now having shortness of breath along with the flutter.  Actually the shortness of breath seems to be the main symptom now.  I don't feel the flutter as much anymore only the shortness of breath feeling.  My cardiologist told me that my Echo shows no signs of Congestive Heart Failure.  He said that the blood flow looked good and my heart was strong.  I have a sleep study appt coming up.  I've been told about the antirhythmic meds and will consider that after I have the sleep study.  I'm also overweight and in the process of diet and exercise.  56 years old.  The doctor told me that I apparently have the gene that was passed down to me from my dad that gave me A Fib.  My question is with my shortness of breath.  I'm wondering why I now have shortness of breath at least once a day which lasts maybe 1-2 hours.  Could this be the meds? (I'm thinking it's not the meds since I've been on them since December and no shortness of breath until recently).  Could it be that blood is now backing up into my pulmonary vein causes it?  If so would a chest xray determine that?  I also can lay down at any time of day and fall sound asleep for 2-3 hours.   I'm feeling some anxiety wondering about it.  I have an upcoming appt with my doctor but thought I would put this out to the community in the meantime.  Also let me say this... When there is no shortness of breath and no flutter happening I wouldn't even know I have this disease since at those times I feel fine.


Thank you      

whackyshoe avatar

I recently had a Holter Monitor test, and was informed that there were 10 abnormal beats in the 24 hour period, and was subsequently diagnosed with AFib and put on blood thinners.  This was shocking to me.  I didn't know how to react.  And now I'm curious about, and cannot find any information on why one 10-beat "episode" is considered AFib.  We are going to repeat the test again in 1 month.  I'm guessing the blood thinners (Pradaxa) is just a precautionary exercise at this point in time.  I'm a 67 female, exercise regularly (Zone 2 most days, Zone 1 for 90 minutes every day), and work at a high stress desk job (software engineer) every day.  I am overweight (BMI 32).  I don't have any other chronic conditions (yet).  I have been following the DASH guidelines, and have started following Dean Ornish rules for the past 10 weeks (it's hard!!!).  I do not have high blood pressure (126/62).  Can someone confirm that 10 beats falls within the realm of an AFib diagnosis?

MrsZee avatar

I am just wondering if anyone knows this:  what is Metaprolol actually do?  Is it for heart rhythm control or heart rate control or both? 

My doctor only mentioned that it would slow my heart rate so I am not certain what else it does?

Thanks everyone,

Terri

 

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