The term atrial fibrillation is based on the words, ‘atrial’ meaning the upper part of heart, and ‘fibrillation’ which means quivering. Atrial fibrillation is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Atrial fibrillation can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat irregularly and the blood does not effectively move in the heart, which may result in clot formation. If a clot breaks off, enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain, a stroke results. 1 in 7 strokes are caused by atrial fibrillation. The clot risk is why patients with this condition are often put on blood thinners. Untreated atrial fibrillation is associated with a 5-fold increased risk for stroke. Kardia Advanced Determination “Atrial Fibrillation” indicates an irregular rhythm at any heart rate, that is not a sinus rhythm, which could include: atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter w variable block, wandering atrial pacemaker, or sinus with PACs.
What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?
Risk factors for atrial fibrillation include advanced age, high blood pressure, heart disease, alcohol use, family history, sleep apnea, thyroid problem, and diabetes. Sometimes people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms at all. Others may experience fatigue, rapid heartbeat, fluttering or thumping in chest, dizziness, shortness of breath, anxiety, weakness, fainting, confusion, sweating, or chest pain or pressure.*
What Can I Do Next?
The treatment for atrial fibrillation depends on your risk of stroke and your symptoms. Many patients will need to take a blood thinner (antithrombotic medication) that treats and prevents blood clots that can lead to a stroke. Additional medications may be prescribed to slow the heart rate, or restore the heart rhythm to normal. Patients with atrial fibrillation are advised to engage in regular physical activity, eat a heart-healthy diet, manage high blood pressure, avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine, not smoke, control cholesterol, and maintain a healthy weight. All of these goals aid in the prevention of overall heart disease, too. Finally, there are invasive procedures that may be performed (electrical cardioversion, catheter or surgical ablation) to restore the heart rhythm to normal.
Filling out this sheet from the American Heart Association, Partnering in Your Treatment, can help you discuss your goals and options with your healthcare provider.
*Kardia cannot detect signs of a heart attack. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, call emergency services.