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Senior man having his heart examined with stethoscope in hospital.

What is AFib?

Atrial fibrillation, often called AFib, is the most common type of treated heart arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular way.

When a person has AFib, the normal beating in the upper chambers of the heart is irregular, and blood doesn’t flow as well as it should from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart. AFib may happen in brief episodes, or it may be a permanent condition.

Doctor consulting her patient

Facts About AFib

  • It is estimated that between 2.7 million and 6.1 million people in the United States have AFib. As the U.S. population ages, this number is expected to increase.
  • People of European descent are more likely to have AFib than African Americans.
  • Because the number of AFib cases increases with age and women generally live longer than men, more women than men experience AFib.

Risk Factors

The risk for AFib increases with age. High blood pressure increases with advancing age and accounts for about 1 in 5 cases of AFib. Risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • European ancestry
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Enlargement of the chambers on the left side of the heart
Light headed

Signs and Symptoms

Some people who have AFib don’t know they have it and don’t have any symptoms. Others may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart palpitations (rapid, fluttering, or pounding)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
Woman caressing ill man in hospital ward

How Is AFib Related to Stroke?

  • AFib increases a person’s risk for stroke. When standard stroke risk factors were accounted for, AFib was associated with a four- to fivefold increased risk of ischemic stroke. AFib causes about 1 in 7 strokes.
  • Strokes caused by complications from AFib tend to be more severe than strokes with other underlying causes. Strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is blocked by a blood clot or by fatty deposits called plaque in the blood vessel lining.
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How is AFib Treated?

Treatment may include:

  • Medicine to control the heart’s rhythm and rate
  • Blood-thinning medicine to prevent blood clots from forming and reduce stroke risk
  • Surgery
  • Medicine and healthy lifestyle changes to manage risk factors

Take Our AFib Risk Assessment

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Terms & Conditions

By participating in this quiz, or screening or health assessment, I recognize and accept all risks associated with it. I understand that the program will only screen for certain risk factors and does not constitute a complete physical exam. For the diagnosis of a medical problem, I must see a physician for a complete medical exam. I release Deborah Heart and Lung Center and any other organization(s) involved in this screening, and their employees and agents, from all liabilities, medical claims or expenses which may arise from my participation. Thank you for investing in your health by participating today.