Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib is the most common type of abnormal heartbeat. Abnormal electrical discharges are the cause of AFib that generate chaotically throughout the upper chambers of the heart, called atria.
Afib is an electrical disorder causing rapid electrical signals in the heart that may reach hundreds of beats per minute. These signals interfere with the ability of atria to contract in an organized way, which leads to passive blood flow and reduced pumping action. Blood can even pool within the heart.
AFib lowers atria’s ability to pump blood into the ventricles. It usually causes the heart to beat very rapidly.
Every year, one-half million new cases of atrial fibrillation are diagnosed in the U.S., and billions of dollars are spent on its diagnosis and treatment annually.
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation
Some people with afib have no symptoms, while others experience a wide range of symptoms, including:
- shortness of breath, and
- chest pain.
The Effects of Afib on the Body
Afib increases the risk of heart-related disorders and stroke. Other than this, there are other risks too:
When the heart’s electrical system is disturbed, the heart chambers lose their rhythm. For example, you may feel a sensation that your heart is flopping around inside your chest which is a symptom of AFib. Sometimes your heart may beat irregularly (palpitations) and you may become hyper-aware of your own heartbeat.
With time, afib can cause the heart to deteriorate and malfunction. In addition, the ineffective contractions of the heart cause blood to pool in the atria. As a result, it can increase the risk of clotting. Due to this, a person may feel shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and chest pain. Heart failure occurs when the heart loses its ability to circulate enough blood throughout the body.
Afib can also harm your respiratory system. This is because the lungs need a steady blood in order to function properly and efficiently. Irregular pumping action of the heart can lead to the fluid to back up in the lungs, which is sometimes common during AFib. Symptoms include difficulty performing physical activities, shortness of breath and fatigue.
Central Nervous System
Afib can directly affect your brain and can increase the risk of stroke. When the heart fails to contract properly, blood tends to collect in the upper chamber of heart, which increases the risk of forming a clot. As the heart pumps, the clot travels to the brain, where it blocks the blood supply causing an embolic stroke.
Early warning signs include severe headache and unclear speech. Your risk of stroke increases as you age if you have AFib. Other additional risks for stroke include diabetes, high blood pressure, previous stroke or history of other heart problems. However, blood thinners and other medications can reduce this risk.
In some cases of AFib, people may have a build-up of fluid in the ankles, legs, and feet. Other symptoms include lightheadedness, weight gain, and a general sense of malaise (illness). In addition, some patients also report exertion and irritability during previously routine activities.
While Atrial fibrillation is a threat for the entire human body, it can still be prevented. Take the below given actions to lower your risk of afib:
- Eat a healthy diet. Avoiding food rich in trans or saturated fats and refined carbohydrates.
- Control cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Avoid drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
- Quit smoking.
- Try to achieve a healthy weight.
- Get regular exercise.
- Some causes of atrial fibrillation cannot be prevented.