A cardiac arrhythmia is a malfunction of the heart’s electrical system resulting in an irregular heartbeat (a skipped beat, a rapid heart rate, a slow heart rate, etc.). Electrical impulses originate in the sinus node (the heart’s natural pacemaker), and are propagated throughout the four chambers of the heart.
These electrical impulses cause the heart muscle to contract, ultimately causing the heart to beat. Normally the heart contracts in an organized, regular fashion, but when the heart’s normal electrical activity is altered or chaotic, an arrhythmia may develop.1
There are several types of arrhythmia including1:
- Atrial fibrillation: upper chamber of the heart contracts irregularly
- Atrial flutter: upper chamber of the heart contracts quickly
- Atrial tachycardia: rapid heart rate that starts in the upper chamber of the heart
- Ventricular fibrillation: disorganized contraction of the lower chambers of the heart
What is Afib?
Atrial fibrillation or Afib is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia. Left untreated, Afib can lead to serious consequences such as stroke or heart failure.
- It’s estimated that up to 33.5 million people around the world are living with Afib2 and it’s the most common serious heart rhythm abnormality in people over the age of 65.3
- Persistent Afib is when symptoms last more than 7 days.4 Although Afib itself is not life-threatening5, it doubles the risk of heart related deaths and increases the risk of stroke by up to 5 times.3
For more information on arrhythmias, contact your physician.
- American Heart Association. About Arrhythmia. Accessed September 11, 2015.
- Chugh SS, Havmoller R, et al. Worldwide epidemiology of atrial fibrillation: a Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study. Circulation. 2014; Feb 25;129(8):837-47.
- American Heart Association. What is Atrial Fibrillation (Afib or AF)? Accessed August 10, 2015.
- American Heart Association. What are the Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)? Accessed November 4, 2015.
- Shea J, Sears S, et al. A Patient’s Guide to Living with Atrial Fibrillation. Circulation. 2008; 117:e340-e343.