Heart palpitations? Shortness of breath? You could have AFib.

image depicting a stethoscope and a heartAtrial Fibrillation, also known as AFib, starts as an irregular and rapid heart rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart. The rhythm change may begin slowly, but can become stronger and more consistent as time goes on. It is the most common type of arrhythmia and may increase risk of blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.  Typically, a normal resting heart rate doesn’t exceed 100 beats per minute. For those with AFib, their heartbeat can reach as high as 175 beats per minute.

AFib does not always present with symptoms and many people do not know they have it. Those who do can experience one or more of the following:

  • Feeling faint
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations

According to the American Heart Association, nearly 3 million people in the U.S. have AFib, and it affects more than 9 percent of people aged 65 years and older.

Why’s It Dangerous?

AFib can cause blood to pool in the heart’s left atrial appendage, which can create clots. Those clots can travel through the bloodstream, blocking the flow of blood to the brain and causing a stroke. A neurological workup can determine the cause.

When a person has heart palpitations, an electrocardiogram (EKG) is usually done, and the patient may wear a Holter monitor for 24 to 48 hours to record heart activity. But even with these tests, abnormal rhythms may not be detected because they come and go, and these tests only capture heart rhythms for a short period of time.

Causes and Treatment for AFib

As people age, certain health conditions can put them at risk for AFib, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnea, heart failure and smoking. Once detected, medication is usually a first-line treatment option. Depending on the severity of the case, cardiac ablation (the scarring of heart tissue to block abnormal electrical signals) or inserting a pacemaker can also be effective.

Advanced Cardiac Services, Close to Home

If you or a loved one has a personal or family history of cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease, has suffered a heart attack, or has a heart failure diagnosis, we can help. Our highly trained staff and physicians provide patients with an individualized approach to heart care, including assessment, diagnosis, planning, intervention and evaluation. They also help coordinate multidisciplinary care to help put patients back on the road to recovery.