What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is an irregularity and often occurs as rapid heart rate that can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
During atrial fibrillation, the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly out of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. Atrial fibrillation includes the symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness.
Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms
Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition until it’s discovered during a physical examination. Those who have atrial fibrillation symptoms may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Palpitations, which are sensations of a racing, uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat or a flip-flopping in the chest
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Atrial fibrillation may be:
In this case it is called as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. These symptoms may come and go, lasting for a few minutes to few hours and then stopping on their own.
With this type of atrial fibrillation, your heart rhythm doesn’t go back to normal on its own. If the persistent atrial fibrillation occurs, they need the treatment such as an electrical shock or medications in order to restore the heart rhythm.
This type of atrial fibrillation is continuous and lasts longer than 12 months.
In this type of atrial fibrillation, the abnormal heart rhythm can’t be restored. You will have atrial fibrillation permanently, and often it require medications to control the heart rate.
Atrial fibrillation Causes
Atrial fibrillation is irregular and a often rapid heart rate that occurs when the two upper chambers of your heart (atria) experience chaotic electrical signals.
Heart consists of four chambers, they are two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). Within the upper right chamber of the heart (right atrium) is a group of cells called the sinus node. This is the heart’s natural pacemaker. The sinus node produces the impulse that starts to each heartbeat.
Normally, the impulse travels first through the atria and then through a connecting pathway between the upper and lower chambers of your heart called the atrioventricular (AV) node. As the signal passes from the sinus node through the atria, it gets contraction and pumping blood from the atria into the ventricles below. As the signal passes through the AV node to the ventricles, it signals the ventricles to contract, pumping blood out to your body.
In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (atria) experience chaotic electrical signals. As a result, they quiver. The AV node is the electrical connection between the atria and the ventricles is bombarded with impulses trying to get through to the ventricles.
The ventricles can beat rapidly, but it is not much as the atria, as not all the impulses get through. The reason is that the AV node is like a highway on-ramp – only so many vehicles can get on at one time.
Atrial Fibrillation Risk factors
Certain factors may increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation. These include:
The older you are, the greater the risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
Anyone with heart diseases such as heart valve problems, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, or a history of heart attack or heart surgery has an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
High blood pressure
Blood pressure issues, especially when they are not well-controlled with the lifestyle changes or medications, can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation.
Other chronic conditions
People with certain chronic conditions such as thyroid problems, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or lung disease have an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
Drinking alcohol can cause of atrial fibrillation. Binge drinking may put you at an even higher risk.
People who are obese are at higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
An increased risk of atrial fibrillation is present in some families.
Atrial Fibrillation Treatment
Treatment for atrial fibrillation is determined by how long you've had the condition, your symptoms, and the underlying cause of the irregular heartbeat. The treatment's objectives are as follows:
- Reset the heartbeat
- Control your heart rate
- Prevent blood clots from forming, which can lead to a stroke.
Treatment for atrial fibrillation may include:
- Resetting the heart rhythm therapy (cardioversion)
- Catheter procedures or surgery
You and your doctors will decide on the best treatment option for you. It's critical to stick to your atrial fibrillation treatment plan. If A-fib is not properly managed, it can lead to other complications such as strokes and heart failure.