Your heart is possibly the most important life-producing organ in your body. It pumps blood to cells all through your body through blood vessels, carrying oxygen to all the areas that need it. Cardiac arrhythmia is a term that describes any abnormal beating of the heart. One of the most common forms of cardiac arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation (also called AF or A-Fib). It occurs when the two small upper chambers of the heart, called the atria, vibrate and quiver instead of beating effectively. This causes a lack of proper blood flow out of the atria. The blood in the atria then tends to build up and clot. If part of a blood clot escapes the heart and enters the arteries of the brain, it will cause a serious stroke.
About 1% of Americans have atrial fibrillation, approximately 2 million people. 15% of these people have a stroke as a result. 3 to 5% of all people over 65 suffer from it, as the risk of getting it gets worse with age. A family history of atrial fibrillation can be a high risk factor, as can excessive alcohol use, already existing heart disease and high blood pressure. Atrial fibrillation can be either chronic, meaning symptoms last continually until treated. It can also be occasional, starting and stopping at random, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. The symptoms of this condition can vary depending on the person. Some people may not show any signs at all.
The most common signs include an abnormal fluttering sensation in the heart, palpitations of an irregular speed, chest pain, faintness, shortness of breath, low blood pressure and anxiety. If you or a loved one has atrial fibrillation, it has likely caused debilitating concerns.
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