The most frequently occurring type of cardiac arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation. The hearts of patients with arrhythmia have an irregular rhythm or have fast or slow beats. These individuals can live normal lives if they undergo ongoing treatment from a cardiologist.
What Exactly Is This Disorder?
Medical professionals also refer to it as AFib or AF. It can occur on a permanent basis or during periodic events. The atypical beating associated with AFib occurs in the two upper chambers of the heart. Arrhythmia interrupts the normal flow of blood to the ventricles, the organ’s two lower chambers.
The cause of AFib is a problem with the electrical system of a heart. Electrical impulses get waylaid as they move through the organ, becoming disorganized and rapid. AFib frequently results from other disorders such as heart disease or hypertension. In some patients, however, doctors cannot uncover the precise cause.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, somewhere between 2.7 million and 6.1million Americans have this condition. More than 750,000 people enter the hospital each year because of this type of arrhythmia.
AFib affects more women than men. Individuals with a European background develop it more often than those who are African American. Having AFib boosts a patient’s stroke risk by as many as five times over those without the disorder.
Many patients with AFib are unaware that they suffer from the disorder and in fact show no signs of it. The most common symptoms include:
- An irregular heartbeat
- Heart pounding or fluttering
- Lightheaded sensation
- Severe fatigue
- Chest pain
- Feeling short of breath
Atrial Fibrillation Risk Factors
The number of adults who suffer from this disorder is growing with the aging of the baby boomer generation. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute indicates that while risk rises with age, around 50 percent of patients with AFib are less than 75 years old.
The major risk factors include experiencing:
- Coronary heart disease
- Cardiac defects present at birth
- Pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart
- A structural heart defect like mitral valve prolapse
- Rheumatic heart disease
- Sick sinus syndrome
- Heart failure
- Recent surgery
- A heart attack
Certain other disorders boost a patient’s chances of developing this condition:
- Lung disease
Specific behaviors can also increase the risk of AFib. Alcohol in even small amounts can cause an episode for some patients. Consuming large amounts elevates risk. Caffeine and psychological stress can set off the disorder. Some researchers believe that sleep apnea is also a risk factor.
Fortunately, cardiologists can offer AFib patients a number of treatment options that range from medication to electrical conversion procedures or surgery. Therapeutic objectives are preventing the formation of blood clots, rate control, treating any underlying condition, and giving the patient a normal heart rhythm.