Commonly known as AF or AFib, atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart arrhythmia affecting more than 2.5 million adults in the United States alone, and 4.5 million people in the European Union.
A serious and potentially life-threatening condition, approximately 88,000 deaths occur annually in the United States alone from AFib. In addition, AFib accounts for one-third of all heart-related hospitalizations.
According to the Heart Rhythm Society, more than $16 billion dollars in the United States is spent annually on AFib-related healthcare costs.
The number of people affected by AFib is expected to increase in the coming years.
To help raise awareness about AFib, the Heart Rhythm Society has designated the month of September as Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month.
In its simplest terms, AFib is an irregular heart beat that occurs when the upper and lower chambers of the heart no longer beat with synchronicity.
People with AFib may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, weakness, a drop in blood pressure, chest pain, confusion, dizziness or feelings of lightheadedness, and heart palpitations.
Depending on the type of AFib a person has, the symptoms may be present all the time or may come and go.
For example, people with paroxysmal AFib only experience an irregular heartbeat sometimes. On the other hand, people with chronic AFib have an irregular heartbeat at all times.
AFib can be caused by a number of different conditions including high blood pressure, heart attack, sleep apnea, infections, lung disease, metabolic imbalances, overactive thyroid, certain medications, caffeine, alcohol consumption and smoking.
Congenital heart defects along with abnormal heart valves are common causes of AFib. In addition, certain demographics are at greater risk for developing AFib including those with a familial history of AFib or heart disease.
The risk of AFib increases with age.
In some instances, AFib can lead to serious, life-threatening complications such as stroke or heart failure. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of AFib, you should seek medical attention.
To learn more about AFib, visit EmpowHer’s AFib page at https://www.empowher.com/condition/atrial-fibrillation/
Atrial Fibrillation Awareness. 30 August 2012. Heart Rhythm Society. http://www.hrsonline.org/News/AF-awareness/index.cfm
Atrial Fibrillation. The Mayo Clinic. 02 Feb 2012. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/atrial-fibrillation/DS00291
Reviewed September 3, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith