Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart complications.
During atrial fibrillation, the upper two chambers of the heart (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly – out of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. Symptoms of atrial fibrillation often include palpitations, shortness of breath, and weakness.
Atrial fibrillation episodes can come and go, or you may develop atrial fibrillation that won’t go away and may need treatment. Although atrial fibrillation itself is usually not life threatening, it is a serious condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment.
A major problem with atrial fibrillation is the possibility of blood clots forming in the upper chambers of the heart. These blood clots that form in the heart can travel to other organs and block blood flow (ischemia).
Treatments for atrial fibrillation may include drugs and other procedures to try to change the heart’s electrical system.
Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and ignore their condition until it is discovered during a physical exam. People with symptoms of atrial fibrillation may have signs and symptoms such as:
Palpitations, which are sensations of fast, uncomfortable, irregular, or tilting heartbeat in the chest
Reduced training ability
shortness of breath
Atrial Fibrillation Open the pop-up dialog box
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that occurs when chaotic electrical signals appear in the upper two chambers of your heart. The result is a faster and irregular heartbeat. The heart rate in atrial fibrillation can vary between 100 and 175 beats per minute. The normal range for a heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Your heart is made up of four chambers – two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). In the upper right chamber of your heart (right atrium) is a group of cells called a sinus node. It is your heart’s natural stimulator. The sinus node generates the signal that normally starts every heartbeat.
Coronary heart disease
Abnormal heart valves
Heart defects you were born with (congenital)
An overactive thyroid or other metabolic imbalance
Exposure to stimulants such as drugs, caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol
Sick sinus syndrome – malfunction of the natural pacemaker
Previous heart surgery
Stress from surgery, pneumonia, or other illnesses
Certain factors can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation.
Age. The older you are, the higher the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
Heart disease. Anyone with heart disease – such as heart valve problems, congenital heart disease, heart failure, coronary artery disease, or a history of heart attacks or heart surgery – is at increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
Arterial hypertension. High blood pressure, especially if not well controlled by lifestyle changes or medication, can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation.
Other chronic diseases. People with certain chronic conditions such as thyroid problems, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or lung disease are at increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
Drink alcohol. In some people, alcohol consumption can trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation. If you drink too much alcohol, the risk is even higher.
To prevent atrial fibrillation, it is important to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of heart disease. A healthy lifestyle can include:
Eat heart healthy food
Increase your physical activity