What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of an arrhythmia, or a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. Due to disorganized electric signals through the chambers of the heart, the rhythm of the heartbeat is sent out of whack, speeding up from its monotonous, consistent beat to a chaotic and uneven frenzy. Episodes of these heart flutters can occur intermittently (paroxysmal atrial fibrillation) or continuously, sometimes causing someone suffering from atrial fibrillation to experience the sensation of a racing heart, chest pain, and overall weakness. Over time, such episodes can weaken the heart and cause blood clots, which can in turn cause stroke or heart failure. While about 2.2 million people in the United States have already been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, the National Stroke Association estimates that one-third of the country has the condition, but doesn’t know it. Here are key afib symptoms and afib risk factors to pay attention to:
Your heart occasionally (or continuously) beats irregularly
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Most patients describe the fluttering sensation of the heart characteristic of atrial fibrillation as too fast and uneven. While a healthy heart at rest will typically beat between 50 and 100 times a minute, the National Stroke Association reports that hearts afflicted with atrial fibrillation can sometimes reach an unwieldy pace of 450 beats a minute, though they can beat irregularly without speeding up, too. Episodes of chaotic or arrhythmic pulse behavior can be especially prevalent during stress or fatigue, after smoking or after too much caffeine, alcohol, or exercise. These lifesaving tips from a cardiologist can prevent heart disease.