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Atrial Fibrillation – Irregular Rhythms From Your Heart-Part 1

atrial fibrillationAtrial Fibrillation is part of a gang called irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias.

 

These misbehaved beats are in a group of conditions during which your heart temporarily forgets what it’s supposed to be doing, or something interferes with it doing its job correctly.

There is a change from the normal sequence of electrical impulses that keep your body alive. The heart is either beating too fast or too slow, but irregularly.

When it’s not beating correctly, it’s not pumping blood effectively, which means that your lungs, brain and all other organs can’t work properly and can be damaged or shut down completely.

Millions of Americans are living with Atrial Fibrillation (commonly referred to as “AFib.”)

atrial fibrillation strip

Where normally your heart would contract and relax during a regular heartbeat, in Atrial Fibrillation the Atria (upper chambers of the heart) quiver instead of beating regularly to move blood down to the ventricles.

There’s a risk that a clot could break off, enter the bloodstream and get stuck in an artery leading to the brain, for instance, causing a Stroke. This is the reason patients with Atrial Fibrillation are put on blood thinners.

The most common symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation include:

  • General fatigue
  • Fast, irregular heartbeats
  • Fluttering or “thumping” feeling in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath and anxiety
  • Weakness, feeling faint or confused
  • Fatigue and more sweating than usual when exercising
  • Chest pain or pressure 

*Chest pain or pressure is a medical emergency. You may be having a heart attack.

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately.

It’s not always clear what causes A. Fib, but often it’s the result of damage to the heart’s electrical system from other conditions, such as longstanding, uncontrolled high blood pressure or coronary artery disease. It’s also the most common complication after surgery.

As stated earlier, having atrial fibrillation can put you at an increased risk for stroke. Here are the warning signs of a stroke:

  • Sudden confusion
  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Sudden loss of balance
  • Sudden severe headache which may be accompanied by dizziness or vomiting
  • Sudden weakness or numbness in your arms, legs, or face, especially if you experience weakness on only one side of the body.
  • If you smile and look in the mirror, you may notice that one side of your face droops. If you try and raise both arms, you may have difficulty lifting one side. Depending on the severity, a stroke can also lead to paralysis on one side of your body.

Other complications of Atrial Fibrillation may include:

  • Heart failure
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Additional heart rhythm problems
  • Inconsistent blood supply

It’s important to work with your healthcare professional to determine your treatment needs and to understand your treatment options

It is also important to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle and reduce your overall risks as much as possible.

Avoiding atrial fibrillation and lowering your risk of having a stroke can be as simple as skipping your morning cup of coffee.

View an animation of atrial fibrillation.

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