Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of arrthymia (irregular heart rhythm), and a potentially serious condition. An estimated 2.7 million people had atrial fibrillation in 2010, and an estimated 12 million people will have the condition by 2050. The estimated annual cost of AFib treatment is well over $7 million including the costs of hospitalization, in- and outpatient physician care, and medications.
The incidence of AFib increases with age. The median age for patients with AFib is 66.8 years for men and 74.6 years for women. The mortality rate from AFib as either the primary or an underlying cause of death has been increasing for more than two decades.
AFib gets its name from the part of your heart that it affects (your atria, which are the top 2 chambers of your heart) and the type of problem it is associated with (fibrillation, which means that your atria contracts too fast and irregularly).
When your heart is working normally, it contracts and pumps blood in a regular pattern. When atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias occur, the electrical activity of the heart is disorganized, causing an irregular heartbeat. The irregular heartbeat disrupts the flow of blood through the heart.
AFib risk factors include high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, advanced age, hyperthyroidism, and heart disease. Most importantly, stroke and heart failure are the two most common complications of AFib.
What are the symptoms of AFIB?
Some people with AFib do not experience any symptoms. Others experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Lightheadedness, extreme fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
You may find that your symptoms begin suddenly and last for a few seconds, minutes, hours, or days before stopping on their own. Or, you may experience an irregular heartbeat that continues for a longer period of time.
How is AFIB Diagnosed?
Your doctor may suspect AFib if you discuss some of the above symptoms with him. Through a routine medical exam, a doctor may also suspect AFib even though you may not have any symptoms. AFib can be detected with an electrocardiogram (also called an EKG) - a simple and painless test that records the heart's electrical activity.
How is AFIB Treated?
AFib treatments include:
- Medication that thins the blood to prevent blood clot formation and reduces the risk of having a stroke.
- Medications to control the rhythm and rate of heart.
- Medication and lifestyle changes to reduce the risk factors for atrial fibrillation, which include high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.
- Various surgical interventions are now available
If you have been diagnosed with AFib, don’t wait. Talk to your doctor today about managing your condition.