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. Know the symptoms
  2. Get the right treatment
  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
masheely avatar

I was recently diagnosed with AFib and may need an ablation or two. How much time did you have to take off work after the procedure to heal? What can I expect having an ablation procedure? 

BobbaLee avatar

8 weeks ago I was diagnosed with AFIB. I retained a lot of fluid which I lost while in the hospsital due to the constant IV Diuretics I lost 15 pounds of water. Now at home I regained 10 pounds even though I am only eating less than 1800 calories per day and trying to drink less than 40 ozs of fluid.. My Doctor just upped my Furosemide 20 mg to 4 tablets a day.

I just had my first succesful cardioversion and out of AFIB for now. Any ideas to hasten the fluid loss? It can be very uncomfortable. Thanks

yollicsa avatar

I went to the ER at approx. 8:00 PM Friday, 7/13/18 with an odd feeling in my chest and a heart rate averaging 164 BPM up to 189, per my Polar HRM.  Diagnosed as being in AFib VERY quickly by ER staff.  I converted to sinus rhythm about 4.5 hrs later (12:30 AM) and then went back into AFib about 17 hours later for a short time.  I was released from the hospital around noon on Sunday and was sent home on Eliquis (5 mg, 2X) and Cardizem.  On Tuesday, my cardiologist deleted the Cardizem and put me on Sotalol (1/2 80 mg tablet, 2X).

I am 66 years old and am quite active.  I exercise regularly, play softball and, most importantly, played hockey 3 plus times a week in the winter.  I am VERY concerned about the impact AFib and the associated medications will have on my activity.  I know "contact sports" are not recommended for people on blood thinners but our hockey is mostly "old guy" hockey where checking is not permitted.  Unfortunately, contact is not totally unavoidable so I am looking for input on people's experiences in this area.  My cardiologist was clearly leary of me playing hockey but did not say "no."  The cardiologist in the hospital felt it wasn't a big problem given that is not highly competitive and I wear a helmet with a face mask.  Additionally, I have been talking to some of my leaguemates and already know of several that have been on blood thinners for some time.  All words of wisdom will be appreciated!

Thanks,

Steve

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