What is AFib?

Atrial Fibrillation…..AFib or AF is the most common abnormal heart rate. Over 2 million Americans alone, have it.

What is it?
Simply, your heart is made up of 4 chambers, two are atria, and two are ventricles. The chambers work together, supplying blood to all areas of the body. The whole process starts with a little electrical signal, which causes the atria to push blood into the ventricles. The ventricles then push the blood out into the body. This process continues over and over resulting in your heartbeat.

So what’s the problem?
The average heart beats regularly at 60-80 times per minute. With Atrial Fibrillation, the electrical signal becomes confused. This causes the atria to become “independent contractors”, working on their own. The rate can reach as high as 400 beats per minute.  This is called fibrillation, and then your heart does not work the way it was meant to work.

Are there any signs or symptoms?
Indeed there are: Palpitations, Chest Pain, Fainting, Fatigue, Feeling Lightheaded and Exercise Intolerance.  

Are there risk factors?
Yes, Congestive Heart Failure, Hypertension, Age 65 or above, Diabetes, Female, Stroke, Thromboembolism, Hyperthyroidism, Extreme Stress, Excessive Alcohol or Caffeine.

How do I fix this?
The treatment may be as simple as eliminating caffeine, or if it’s a thyroid issue, treating that. Treatment will be a decision between you and your physician, and may involve: Medications, a Pacemaker, Synchronized Cardioversion, Ablation, or a combination of any of the above methods.

How can I prevent AFib?
Start exercising regularly, eat a healthy heart diet, manage that high blood pressure, avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, maintain a healthy weight and NO SMOKING!

Remember, because the atria fibrillates, the blood is not moving through the chambers of the heart as it was meant to. This may put you at high risk for a blood clot to form, that could cause a stroke or heart attack.  So, if you are concerned you might have Atrial Fibrillation, please call your physician.

Learn more here.

References: American Heart Association, When the Beat is Off-Atrial Fibrillation Website Article, Wikipedia, Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care 2013
Critical Pathways in Cardiology, Evaluation and management of the Atrial Fibrillation Patient Volume 12, Sept 2013 pg 107-115