Atrial fibrillation is a heart disorder that makes your heart beat in an irregular and often fast rhythm. It can cause symptoms like heart palpitations, chest pain, fatigue, and dizziness. This condition can have serious complications, but early detection may help in controlling it. It’s important to know the early signs, which can be subtle, so you can talk to your healthcare provider about them.
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a condition that affects the way your heart beats. Normally, your heart beats in a regular, rhythmic pattern. With AFib, the upper chambers of your heart, known as the atria, beat irregularly and often rapidly. This can cause blood to pool in the heart, and sometimes it may result in clots.
Why is it Important to Know?
Since atrial fibrillation can lead to more serious health problems like low blood pressure (hypotension), blood clots, stroke, or heart failure, it’s crucial to notice the early signs. This way, you can seek medical help before the condition gets worse. According to American Heart Association, roughly 15% to 20% of stroke patients have atrial fibrillation.
Signs and Symptoms
You might feel your heart pounding or fluttering in your chest. This feeling can come and go or last for a longer time.
Feeling tired more than usual without a clear reason can be a sign of atrial fibrillation. Your heart isn’t pumping blood as efficiently, so you may feel weak or exhausted.
Shortness of Breath
If you’re having trouble catching your breath even when you’re not being active, it could be a sign of this condition.
Dizziness or Fainting
Feeling lightheaded or fainting may happen because your heart isn’t pumping enough blood to your brain.
Though less common, chest pain or discomfort can occur. You should seek medical help right away if you experience this symptom.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some people may be more at risk for atrial fibrillation. These risk factors include:
- Age (more common in people over 60)
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Chronic lung diseases
- Moderate to heavy alcohol use
Prevention and Treatment
You can take some steps to prevent atrial fibrillation or manage it if you already have this condition.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid excessive alcohol
- Quit smoking
If you have atrial fibrillation, your doctor might prescribe medications to control your heart rate or prevent blood clots. Sometimes, medical procedures like electrical cardioversion or catheter ablation may be necessary.
When to See a Healthcare Provider
If you notice any of the above signs, it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider. They can perform tests to see if you have atrial fibrillation and create a treatment plan that’s right for you. It’s always better to seek help early, so don’t hesitate if you have any concerns about your heart’s rhythm.