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
Nesshan avatar

Last Wednesday I woke up and was sitting in bed. I felt my heart beating oddly and after that my chest felt uncomfortable, I told my sister how I was feeling and at that point my heart started beating really fast. I thought I was having a heart attack and was about to die. 

Sister took me to the ER where they checked my pulse and put me on an IV I hadn't been told what it was until I was moved to the Hospital, I wasn't allowed to walk and then I was told that I was in AFib. 

Later that night a nurse said I "converted" and all was well. 

The next day I had a ultrasound on my heart done and etc.

The doctors didn't mention anything bad going on and explained that I had AFib probably because of sleep apnea and being overweight. He told me I should work on losing weight and eating better to fix it.

I'm on Eliquis and Diltiazem, I wasn't told how long but was told I shouldn't run out of Eliquis. 

I'm still terrified of havhav that happen again and I have no one else to talk to about this. 

After having AFib and converting, and being on this medication. What are the possobiliposs of having to experience that again ? I'm trying to exercise more but I'm scared of something happening again.

sunbirds avatar

I am having a hard time too.  I went to bed last Friday, 3/8, and couldn't go to sleep because my heart was pounding so hard it felt like it was a drum beating on my mattress.  I have never had that happen before. I had had flutters for a couple weeks off & on after my company left, but didn't think about it. This time I couldn't ignore it. My heart was beating so hard I thought it would stop beating altogether just from wearing itself out, so I called the police dept and asked them to call RMSA. They got here within 15 minutes, lights flashing, waking up all the neighbors, hooked me up to their portable EKG, got alarmed and loaded me into the ambulance. I was still in my PJs and robe with slippers. We left in such a hurry that the paramedic couldn't even lock my door right.  I went into a WOP mode (whatever that is) on the way to the hospital.  I was shaking uncontrollably and shivering like I was in a snowstorm even though the ambulance was warm.  So got to the hospital and they gave me baby aspirin and Pepsid, then some other drug, and finally after about two hours my heart went back into rhythm and I could go home.  I can't figure out what caused it.  I have low blood pressure and am in excellent health, or thought I was. I'm scared, terrified, and the more I read the more scared I get.  I read that people with afib have shorter life spans. I'm on Xarelto now, and was told I would probably be on it for life, which means if I'm in an accident I could bleed to death before I could get help.  I have no one to talk to. No one in my family has any heart problems even though my dad did.  The doc still hasn't scheduled me in. I wish I had a friend to talk to about this.  I have no idea now what my future will be like.  Can anyone shed some light on this for me?

muddynwv avatar

 

Hello! I am new to the cardiac/AFib world. I was recently diagnosed with my heart going  in and out of AFib while having long pauses and bradycardia.  My cardiologist said he is unable to treat the AFib with medication due to my resting HR normally in the 40’s and sometimes as low as the 30’s. (I do have sporatic dips throughout the day as well) My average awake HR is 60-70, I am scheduled for a sleep study next week to rule out apnea. If the low rate is not due to apnea we will discuss PM/Def.  Has anyone corrected their bradycardia with getting apnea treated?  Also, what medications have you used for AFib if your HR is on the lower side? 

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