Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is an irregular heart beat that makes you five times more likely to have a stroke. Atrial fibrillation impacts the lives of nearly 33.5 million people worldwide. It is the most common heart arrhythmia. Your heart is electrically-charged and designed to efficiently pump blood throughout your body. The top of your heart (atria) and the bottom of your heart (ventricles) are intended to work in unison. If the top of your heart produces chaotic electrical signals, your heart begins to fibrillate or quiver resulting in this rapid and irregular beat.
Atrial fibrillation can begin as Paroxysmal AF, which means it is happening occasionally, and lasting seven days or less. During these bouts, your heart will spontaneously revert back to normal rhythm. If the AF is ignored, or you live a lifestyle that triggers AF, it can be Persistent AF, which means it lasts for more than seven days and requires an intervention to return your heart to normal rhythm. Longstanding Persistent AF is continuous AF lasting longer than one year.
The more frequently you are in AF, or the longer it goes untreated, the harder it is to treat and the higher your risk of stroke.
There are many symptoms beyond a rapid irregular beat. They can include shortness of breath, palpitations, fluttering or pounding in the chest, or dizziness – just to name a few. Causes of AF also vary from how old you are to whether or not you have coronary disease, heart valve disease or high blood pressure. Several other important factors are whether or not you are obese, what level of stress you are under, if you smoke, how much alcohol you consume, and the amount of caffeine you have on a daily basis.
Atrial Fibrillation can be treated by cardioversion (a shock to reset the electrical impulses of the heart), medications, ablation, along with other non-medical treatments that won’t cure the condition but rather complement other methods – with the ultimate goal of an improved overall heart-healthy lifestyle.