What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Heart problems can be rooted in a few different issues, and while they are all serious, they are not all obvious. One often-undiagnosed heart problem is atrial fibrillation. Put simply, atrial fibrillation is when your heart is beating out of rhythm. It is a form of tachycardia, which means the heart is beating abnormally quickly.

When Your Heart is Off-Beat

When the heart is functioning normally, it beats about 60-100 times a minute while at rest. The “beats” of the heart are its contractions, taking in and releasing blood as it circulates through the chambers of the heart. A normal rhythm means the chambers are in sync as they contract and valves open, releasing all the blood that passes through them.

Atrial fibrillation is when the upper heart chambers (atria) are contracting too quickly (fibrillating) to release all of the blood. AF is caused by an irregular electrical signal from the heart’s sinus node, or the “natural pacemaker.” As a result, the hearts upper chambers are beating between 400-600 times a minute.

The Heart Problems of Atrial Fibrillation

When the heart’s upper and lower chambers are out of sync, it is not effectively circulating blood. The heart is working harder for less benefit. In addition, because the valves of the upper heart chambers are opening and closing erratically, blood becomes trapped in atria. This trapped blood will not be noticed by the person who suffers from atrial fibrillation, at least not at first.

Unfortunately, trapped blood can form clots, which are then able to be released into the bloodstream. This highly increases the chances of stroke, and may be lethal if left untreated. Unfortunately, most symptoms go unnoticed or ignored until the heart fails, and the damage becomes extensive.

Early Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

However, there are early signs. If you pay attention to your body, you may be able to spot atrial fibrillation early and get it treated. As a condition, it is highly treatable, and there are medications that can help correct the issue. Even if it is chronic, your doctor may be able to treat it effectively and with relative ease.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include:

  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart racing / fluttering (palpitation)

If you experience any of these symptoms, especially on a regular basis, then please see your doctor as soon as possible. Atrial fibrillation may only seem minor at first, but its consequences can be severe if ignored.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician.

If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.