Have you ever listened to your heart through a stethoscope, or placed your hand over your heart or your fingers on your wrist to feel your pulse?
You hear or feel your heart’s familiar beat, sometimes described as a “lub-dub, lub-dub” sound.
Your primary care physician or cardiologist will easily identify this as a normal sinus rhythm — or a regular heartbeat — that is made as your heart contracts and relaxes to move blood from its upper chambers, or atria, to its lower chambers, or ventricles, then out to your body and extremities.
What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib for short, is an irregular and often rapid heartbeat. AFib can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related problems.
If you have this condition, faulty electrical signals are making your heart flutter or beat too fast. As a result, your heart doesn’t pump as well as it should, which means your blood flow can slow enough to pool and even form blood clots.
What are the signs of AFib?
Do you ever feel a flutter or quiver in your chest when your heart beats? Does your heart ever skip a beat or feel like it is jumping, racing or pounding when you aren’t even exerting yourself? Have you ever experienced occasional chest pain or pressure?
The symptoms of AFib include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart palpitations (rapid fluttering or pounding)
- Extreme fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
What are the risk factors for AFib?
As you age, your risk for AFib increases. High blood pressure accounts for 1 in 5 cases of AFib and is a major risk factor. Other risk factors include:
When should you see a doctor?
If you have any symptoms of AFib, you should make an appointment with your primary care provider (PCP) or cardiologist. Your PCP may order tests or refer you to a cardiologist to determine if you have AFib.
Treatments for AFib can include medicines,
blood thinners, surgery and lifestyle changes. The consequence of not getting diagnosed and seeking treatment is a four- to five-fold increase in the risk for an
ischemic stroke. And strokes caused by AFib tend to be more severe, so getting diagnosed and starting treatments is extremely important.
If you think you might have undiagnosed AFib, make an appointment with your provider right away. If you don’t have a primary care physician or a cardiologist, call Tanner’s 24-hour physician referral line at 770-214-CARE or use Tanner’s web-based Find a Provider tool.