Atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm, is not usually life-threatening on its own. If untreated, however, AF can cause serious complications. AF increases the risk of stroke five-fold, according to the American Heart Association, and it can also lead to congestive heart failure and chronic fatigue.
AF happens when the heart’s upper chambers quiver instead of beating effectively. This can cause blood to pool and clot, potentially leading to a stroke. Normally the heart contracts and relaxes in a coordinated rhythm; AF interferes with the heart’s normal electrical signals, causing an irregular, rapid heartbeat.
Are You at Risk?
About 3 million Americans suffer from AF, and that number is likely to double by 2035.* The following factors increase your risk for AF:
Episodes of AF may come and go in a matter of hours, or symptoms may persist for longer periods until treated. Palpitations (the sensation of a racing, fluttering or irregular heartbeat) are the most recognizable symptom of AF. Other symptoms include weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness, confusion,shortness of breath and chest pain.
If you think you are experiencing AF, seek urgent medical care. A doctor can assess your condition and refer you to an electrophysiologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating heart arrhythmias. An electrophysiologystudy may be done to record electrical activity of your heart and determine the cause of heart rhythm disturbance.
Restoring the Right Rhythm
Treatments for AF restore or reset the heart’s rhythm so your heart can pump blood effectively. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:
Learn more about treatment options and our team of cardiologists and
* Source: American Journal of Cardiology, December 2009.