Atrial fibrillation (also known as “AF” or “Afib”) is a common heart rhythm problem that may or may not be noticeable as a racing, pounding, or fluttering sensation. Usually, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. In atrial fibrillation (also called AFib), the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly (quiver) instead of beating effectively to move blood into the ventricles. Because Afib allows blood to slow down or pool, it increases the risk of clotting, a stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.
This can trigger a significant and often fatal stroke. AF increases the risk of potentially disabling or deadly ischaemic stroke (stroke caused by a blood clot) by nearly 500 percent.
Afib can happen to anyone. You may even have it and not know it. Knowing all the facts is essential, or this potentially dangerous heart rhythm disorder can go mistreated.
Common symptoms may include:
- Racing heart, fluttering, or palpitations
- Fatigue, shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- You may have no symptoms at all.
If you have any signs or symptoms of atrial fibrillation, make an appointment with your doctor.
Debunking common myths about Afib
High-stress levels, smoking and drinking, sleep apnea, and strenuous exercises can trigger Afib. There are a lot of questions and misconceptions about Afib. The more you know, the better care you can take of your heart. The following are common myths associated with AFib:
Myth #1: Everyone has palpitations and fluttering.
Fact: It might not seem like much, but a fluttering heart caused by an AFib attack can cause serious problems. One in four people will develop AF over the age of 64, which increases to 50% of people by the age of 80.
Myth #2: Breathlessness and exhaustion are just an indicator of old age.
Fact: AF can cause you to feel breathless. With AF, the chambers quiver and prevent a steady flow of blood from passing through the heart – causing a feeling of breathlessness and palpitations.
Myth #3: Only older adults get atrial fibrillation.
Fact: People in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s can develop AFib. However, it is far less common. The sooner it is detected, diagnosed, and anticoagulated to prevent Afib-related stroke and the AF treated, the better the outcomes for the person with Afib.
Myth #4: Atrial fibrillation can’t be treated.
Fact: AF can be successfully managed. There are several treatments, from regular medication, pacemakers, cardioversion, or ablation. Your doctor may recommend medicines or procedures to restore your heart rate or rhythm.
Myth #5: Blood thinners don’t stop palpitations.
Fact: Anticoagulation medication helps prevent blood clots from forming in the heart chambers due to the quivering and irregular rhythm. It is essential to prevent clots as they can travel to the brain. This can trigger a significant and often fatal stroke. Afib increases the risk of potentially disabling or deadly ischaemic stroke (stroke caused by a blood clot) by nearly 500 percent.
Myth #6: I have an issue with my heart, not my brain.
Fact: People with AFib are five times more likely to have a stroke. Your doctor will want to reduce your risk of an AFib-related stroke caused by a clot forming in your heart and traveling to your brain. Therefore, the first thing your doctor will discuss with you is anticoagulation therapy to reduce your risk.
Don’t miss a beat. Get regular check-ups.
It is important to listen to your heart. If you think you may have AFib, talk with your healthcare professional and find out what you can do to lower your risk for stroke.