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
jvanslycke avatar

Hello everyone! I am a 40 year old male, fairly active, and diagnosed with Paroxysmal AFib late September 2019. For the benefit of those who ask about Apple Watch effectiveness, I wasn't feeling well for ~2 days and my Apple Watch 3 alerted me I was in AFib (Heart monitoring was not a reason I bought the watch). A trip to the Dr. and an EKG confirmed I was in AFib. I exited AFib on my own after 4 days, before a Cardioversion was scheduled. Since then I had a 2nd episode, which lasted 3 days and I was able to end with Exercise after reading this article (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200212193472522). [Note, I am not a Dr. or endorsing the article, sharing my experience. Also not a lawyer despite the disclaimer :-) ]

I started seeing a cardiologist, who gave the advice that my risk factors are low and only prescribed daily baby aspirin to reduce stroke risk if I go into AFib. I have had an Echo (Normal) and Stress Test (results have not been shared yet). I have stopped drinking caffeine and eliminated alcohol (with a few exceptions here and there).

My question is how everyone feels when they are not in AFib? I personally feel "off" still. I don't know a better way to explain it. I feel like my heart rate rises more than it should with simple activity. At times I feel like my heart beat is off, my chest feels heavy (not chest pain), etc. I am going to follow up with my Cardiologist (I actually had another who specialized is Electrical Cardiology recommended that I might see as well), however I am wondering if others feel the same way?

I am a rather positive person, in a high stress job, but I typically do not feel stressed. I haven't ruled out the mental aspect of having the diagnosis and now feeling off. I still run 2 - 3 times a week and have not struggled at all with exercise.

Anyway, I appreciate the input if others feel "off" even when not in an AFib Episode.

 

 

 

 

 

 

58brendaB avatar

Hi I am new here and I just want to introduce myself.
--- Not really sure where I am supposed to post --- Sorry I have in a couple places

 

A little background , I am 61 now ( 2019 )
I have had AF since 2014 
Once a yr prior I went to the ER with what they said was tachycardia. They sent me home saying I was under stress - I had had a loss in the family.

Two yrs later in 2014 I was sitting at the table and my heart was racing.

Decided to go to the hospital because I was attempting to take my BP with a home cuff and it would not register.

My heart rate at the hospital was over 220
I converted approx 7 hours later with medication. I was admitted and spent 3 days.Hospital Dr said I needed metoprolol and blood thinners. In his words OR I was going to die.( NICE TO HEAR AS I WAS ALREADY SCARED)

Ever since my first bout of AF I have had ringing in ONE EAR 24/7 365
Cardiologist says it was unrelated, however it happened at that exact time & I have no reason to believe it isn't related.

I went to ENT, 2 neurologists , Ear Dr, and PCP had every test known including a brain scan all found nothing wrong. BUT, It persists to this day.

 

I had a cardiologist from my previous episode of tachycardia & I went to see him and he told me there was a 5 point system to determine treatment and I was under 1.
He suggested Propanolol ( 10mg) AS NEEDED and an aspirin daily. The aspirin was lowered to ½ and then eliminated due to a new study that it is ineffective in treatment.He said when I am 65 we will re-evaluate treatment.

I do NOT have HBP ( it does spike in an episode ) or any other conditions. I am overweight

I have had a stress test ,EKG'S and a halter monitor a couple times
ALL NORMAL
I take

Magnesium Oxide 600mg.

Garlic

D3

C

Sometimes potassium and B12 and fish oil

& drink A LOT of water
No caffeine

I do have episodes of AF
In the last 2 years I have had 5
I take pill as soon as I feel it and generally convert within a hour & all is well.UNLESS, I have a long bout which lasts a couple maybe 4 hours + and required 2 pills.

THEN THE PROBLEMS BEGIN

For days sometimes weeks I am off.

I have some breakthrough palpitations and I am SO exhausted I can't function.

I am woozy – not light headed more like swaying  on a ship. Not moving helps.In turn I get nervous anxiety, then sometimes palpitations.


I do feel it is related to the ringing in my ear & is triggered with AF But that is of little comfort. They say It takes time to “balance out”

I have tried ( Dr suggested) water-pills and mucinex as well as benadryl sometimes it will help a little Others times not at all.

Does ANYONE else have this kind of experience ? I really need some input!!! I am week 3 after an episode and this one is really difficult.

ThomasP avatar

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED for CARDIOVASCULAR RESEARCH STUDY 

Hello, my name is Thomas V. Parinello, and I am a doctoral candidate in the clinical psychology program at Fielding Graduate University. I am conducting my dissertation research on cardiovascular self-care and depression and am looking for participants.

The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between self-care and depression in cardiovascular patients when other factors are involved. This research also aims to improve cardiovascular rehabilitation programs and treatment outcomes.

This study is voluntary, anonymous, and confidential and will take approximately 15 minutes to complete a series of questions on a secure website.

TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS RESEARCH, YOU:

- Must be 18 years of age or older

- May be experiencing symptoms of depression or may be diagnosed with a depressive disorder. Symptoms of depression include but are not limited to, decreased overall mood, low energy, fatigue, poor concentration, poor sleep, feelings of hopelessness.

AND WITHIN THE LAST 12-MONTHS:

- Have been diagnosed with a cardiovascular condition, OR

- Have suffered from a cardiovascular related event, OR

- Have undergone cardiovascular related surgery

 

To participate in this study, please visit the below website

http://bit.ly/fgu_cardiostudy

 

If you have questions or would like more information about this study, please feel free to contact me:

Thomas V. Parinello, M.A., Ed.S

Fielding Graduate University

tparinello@email.fielding.edu

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