Have you ever had a quivering or irregular heartbeat that you just weren’t sure about? It could be AFib (atrial fibrillation) which can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure or other heart related complications. In addition to heart palpitations, other symptoms might include shortness of breath and fatigue.
Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. With AFib, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly (quiver) so your blood isn’t moving properly, potentially causing blood clots. This clot risk is why patients with AFib are put on blood thinners.
If a clot breaks off, enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain, it will result in a stroke. 15–20 percent of people who have strokes have this heart arrhythmia. AFib is a serious condition but can be treated. Left untreated, the risk of heart-related death doubles and the risk of stroke increases significantly. It’s important to see your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms or have a history of irregular heartbeat.
Some people are more likely to experience AFib. If you have one or more of the following conditions, you may be at a greater risk.
- Longstanding, uncontrolled high blood pressure
- Anyone with heart disease or a history of heart attack
- Binge drinking
- Having a family member with AFib
- Sleep apnea
- AFib is common in athletes and can be triggered by a rapid heart rate.
- Others at risk are people with thyroid problems (specifically hyperthyroidism), diabetes, asthma or other chronic medical problems.
If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, and have one or more of the conditions mentioned above, it’s important you talk to your doctor and ask to have the appropriate tests done to find out if you have AFib. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you will recover with less damage to your heart.