Atrial Fibrillation (AF/AFib)

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of sustained cardiac arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During AFib, the heart’s upper chambers (atria) beat in an irregular pattern (fibrillate). Blood isn't pumped completely into the heart's two lower chambers of the ventricles and as a result, the heart's upper and lower chambers do not work together as they should. An irregular and often rapid heart rate can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. Episodes of atrial fibrillation may happen rarely or every now and then, or it may become an ongoing or long-term heart problem that lasts for years and may require treatment. Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn't life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment. 
Three types of atrial fibrillation:
  • Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation
  • This AFib occurs occasionally, starting and stopping on its own. As the AFib comes and goes, the pulse rate may go from slow to fast and back to slow in a short time.
  • Persistent Atrial Fibrillation
  • With this type of AFib, the heart rhythm doesn't go back to normal on its own.
  • Permanent Atrial Fibrillation
  • AFib does not go away, either by itself or with treatment. Medications and other treatments can control symptoms and manage the condition. 
Risk factors
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Chronic lung or kidney disease
  • Advancing age
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Family medical history
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) can confirm the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. ECG monitors to wear at home include:
  • Holter monitor is a small external recorder that is worn over a short period of time, usually one to three days. The electrical impulses are continuously recorded and stored in the monitor to be analyzed by a technician.
  • Portable event monitor is a portable ECG you wear for one or two months, which records only when triggered by an abnormal heart rhythm or when you manually activate it. It is also useful in determining what heart rhythm is causing symptoms.
  • Transtelephonic monitor: a tiny event monitor inserted under your skin, worn for several years to record events that only seldom take place.
Treatment for AFib can include:
  • Medications to control the heart’s rhythm and rate.
  • Blood-thinning medication to prevent blood clots from forming and reduce stroke risk.
  • Surgery
  • Medication and healthy lifestyle changes to manage AFib risk factors.
  • An estimated 2.7–6.1 million people in the United States have AFib.
  • Approximately 2% of people younger than age 65 have AFib, while about 9% of people aged 65 years or older have AFib.
  • African Americans are less likely than those of European descent to have AFib.
  • More women than men experience AFib.
  • People with AFib are 5-7x more likely to have a stroke than the general population.
Afib 1

  • "Atrial Fibrillation." Atrial Fibrillation | Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
  • "Atrial Fibrillation Fact Sheet." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Aug. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
  • "Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)." Atrial Fibrillation | Stanford Health Care. Stanford Health Care, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
  • "Atrial Fibrillation (Afib) | Cleveland Clinic: Health Library." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
  • "What Is Atrial Fibrillation?" National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
  • "Atrial Fibrillation." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 05 Dec. 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.


The statistics associated with heart disease are staggering. Fortunately, there are many preventative measures people can take to avoid facing cardiovascular complications in their lifetime. In fact, professionals insist that 80 percent of heart disease-related deaths are preventable. Here are three tips to lower your risk of heart disease:
understanding cardiology & heart disease


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