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
chmayer avatar

Had bypass surgery in 2004. Relatively good condition up until now. I was walking frequently and heart rate elevated some (90-110). I would rest for a few minutes and all was fine again. Two weeks before a scheduled Stress Test. I had same elevation to about 105 with normal sinus rythm. During the stress test A-FIB. They said my heart was very strong. Was perscribed Eliquis with directions. I am 77,  BMI is 23, and take numerous suplements. Now I know what Afib feels like. I never had it before the test! Now anytime I do any physical labor or exercise I get afib and it takes about 20 minutes to an hour to recover to normal sinus rythm. My cardoligist was upset that I had been given the stress test.

My question is did (can) a stress test initiate/start afib???  What now? Looks like western medicine is doing its best to hurt me.

Neanderthal avatar

Hi,

Except for persistent Afib, I am a healthy 56 yr. old man.  My blood pressure is low, cholesterol is 121, resting heartbeat use to be around 57, blood sugars are good.  I was a runner, mountain bike racer, competitive surfer and competitive tennis player.  A few months ago I went in for a normal physical and the Dr noticed an abnormal heartbeat and sent me to the heart specialist where I was diagnosed with persistent Afib.  I'm on 50 mg of metroprolol and a blood thinner but I'm still in persistent Afib.  I still walk 3 miles per day in the mountains and I still go to work every day.  2 hours after taking my first dose of metroprolol I felt like a new man but am still in the Afib.

I believe that (but have no evidence to support) the herpes virus 2 (genital herpes) attacked my heart and caused this.  A virus attacked my inner ear 4 yrs. ago and I've lost my hearing in my left ear.  I read a study done in Taiwan that said that people with herpes virus 2 have a higher rate of Afib.

suziejenga5 avatar

Hi, I was diagnosed with paroxysmal afib about a month ago and spent 3 dayw in the hospital not responding to meds to get my heart rate down. The third day they did a cardioversion and it worked. All my tests have come back perfect- echo showed healthy heart, calcium score is zero, chest xray normal, pulse good, bloodwork great..Yet I have been suffering from EXTREME anxiety and depression ever since. I am convinced I am going to die or have a heart attack and am afraid all of the time. As a result, I have a constant tightness in my chest (which of course, I think is my heart failing) . I was wondering if anyone else experienced this. I am starting anti-anxiety medication and have even begun counseling. I just can't seem to stop thinking about my heart all of the time. 

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