Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)

Getting in the Rhythm

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) affects more than 2 million people in the United States and 15 percent of strokes are a result of untreated atrial fibrillation. Untreated AFib gives you a five times greater risk of stroke. Almost one in five strokes are caused by AFib.

But most people don’t know what AFib is, have never heard of it, and don't know whether they have it.

AFib is a condition where your heart beats irregularly. This causes your atria (the upper chambers of your heart) to beat too fast and irregularly -- to fibrillate -- preventing blood from being fully pumped out to your ventricles (the lower chambers of your heart). (Here is an animation of AFib.)

When this happens, the blood can sometimes pool in your heart and form a blood clot. The clot can travel to your brain and cause a stroke. And because long-term AFib can lead to other heart issues, a AFib stroke is often a more serious stroke.

The symptoms of AFib
While some people with AFib have no symptoms, others may experience one or more of the following:
  • Racing, irregular heart
  • Fluttering in the chest
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness
  • Faintness
  • Fatigue when exercising
  • Sweating
Management of AFib
  • For stroke prevention, most people with AFib take older anticoagulants or the newer ones.
  • To control heart rate, most people take beta blockers.
  • To convert an irregular heartbeat to a normal heartbeat using electrical or chemical means, cardioversion is a noninvasive approach
  • AFib is a leading risk factor for stroke.
  • AFib is more common in people over age 60.
  • AFib is often asymptomatic, making it difficult for people to know that they have it.
  • AFib can be successfully managed with the help of a healthcare professional.
  • About 15% of all people who have strokes also have AFib.
  • Knowing about and properly managing your AFib can prevent you from having a stroke.
  • Up to 80% of strokes in people with AFib can be prevented.
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