- American College of Cardiology
- American Heart Association
- American Stroke Association
- Heart Rhythm Society
- Mended Hearts
- National Institutes of Health
- Stop AFib
What Is Afib?
Atrial fibrillation (AF 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 million people around the world are living with Afib1 and it’s the most common serious heart rhythm abnormality in people over the age of 65.2
- Persistent AF is when symptoms last more than 7 days.2 Although Afib itself is not life-threatening3, it doubles the risk of heart related deaths and increases the risk of stroke by up to 5 times.2
What Causes Atrial Fibrillation Or Afib?
Atrial fibrillation or Afib is an irregular heart rhythm caused by an electrical misfiring of the upper chambers of the heart. In normal heart conduction the two upper chambers, called the atria, contract first causing the two lower chambers, called the ventricles, to fill with blood. Once filled with blood, the two ventricles contract and pump blood to the rest of the body. When a person has Afib, the upper chambers “fibrillate” and do not contract forcefully and are not in coordination with the lower chambers. This can cause a variety of symptoms, or in some patients, no symptoms at all.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Failure And How It Be Connected to Afib?
The symptoms of heart failure can be similar to Afib. They include shortness of breath, chronic cough, a build-up of fluid called edema, nausea, confusion, feeling light headed and an accelerated heart rate. When a patient experiences heart failure, it means that the heart isn’t pumping enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Afib can lead to heart failure because the heart is beating so fast that it never properly fills up with blood to pump out to the body.3
When the heart doesn’t efficiently pump the blood forward with strong contractions, symptoms develop because of two main reasons.
- Blood backs up in the pulmonary veins which can cause fluid to back up into the lungs.
- When Afib causes heart failure, fluid in the lungs can cause fatigue and shortness of breath. Oxygen-rich blood is not being delivered to the body and brain, causing physical and mental fatigue and reduced stamina. Fluid also can build up in the feet, ankles, and legs, causing weight gain.4
- 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 August 10, 2015.
- American Heart Association. Warning Signs of Heart Failure. Accessed October 9, 2015