Atrial fibrillation (AF or A Fib) is a relatively common heart disorder. AF is an "irregular, rapid, contraction of the atria."
The human heart is made up of four chambers (two atria and two ventricles) that normally work together to pump blood throughout the body.
If AF, however, the atria beat our of rhythm with the rest of the heart. In fact, the atria may beat as many as 350 to 400 times a minute during AF as compared to the 60 to 100 times a minute normally. These irregular, rapid contractions make it difficult for the left atrium to empty blood into the left ventricle, which then pumps the blood to the body.
Who Gets AF?
It may surprise you, but AF affects more than two million Americans. In fact, as many as 9% of Americans over the age of 65 may have AF.
How Do You Get AF?
AF can occur in otherwise healthy individuals. But in most cases AF is associated with underlying heart disease or, occasionally, with thyroid disorders.
Would You Suspect You Have AF?
Not everyone with AF experiences the same symptoms. In addition, some people may have AF for years without really knowing it. So it is important to recognize the symptoms of AF so you can discuss them with your doctor.
What Are the Risks of AF?
Even if your AF is barely noticeable, you must be aware of the possible dangers. If left untreated, AF can lead to serious consequences.
a. Stroke: AF may increase your risk of stroke more than five times. As a result of AF, approximately 75,000 strokes every year. Because the rapidly contracting atrium cannot empty properly, blood pools in the atrium and a clot may form. If these clots break free they can lodge in an artery of the brain and cut off the blood supply to that area. this condition, known as stroke, can result in brain damage or death.
b. Heart Failure: AF may be associated with heart failure -- a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to support the rest of the tissues of the body.
The Good News Is .. AF Can Be Managed.
Many people continue to live normal lives with AF. The following is a list of some of the ways your doctor can help you manage your AF.
Returning your heart to normal. In many cases, your doctor will be able to use electrical stimulation or medication to restore your normal heart rhythm or slow the heart rate.
Preventing Stroke. treatment programs may be used to help prevent harmful clots from forming in the left atrium during AF. As a result, these treatments may help reduce the risk of stroke that is often associated with AF.
Risks and responsibilities. Your doctor may use one or more of these methods to manage your AF. Be sure you understand all the risks and responsibilities involved before you begin any treatment.
ANY QUESTIONS? -- Be sure to ask your doctor!