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What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB)?

Atrial fibrillation, sometimes abbreviated to Afib or even AF, is an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm.1 Doctors call these irregular heartbeats arrhythmia, or less commonly dysrhythmia, because the normal rhythm is ‘disrupted’.2

In simple terms, your heart is a pump made up of four chambers. (Right atrium, right ventricle, left atrium, left ventricle)
It also has an inbuilt electrical system that keeps your heart beating in a regular rhythm and adjusts the rate of beats.3

The right side of your heart (shown in blue in the diagram) receives oxygen-poor blood from your veins and pumps it to your lungs, where it picks up oxygen and gets rid of carbon dioxide.

The left side of your heart (shown in red) receives oxygen-rich blood from your lungs and pumps it through your arteries to the rest of your body.

However, in atrial fibrillation, the heart’s upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly — out of sync with the lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. The two upper chambers (atria) contract so quickly that the heart walls quiver, or fibrillate.5

While some people with AF may not notice any symptoms1, there are some common signs to watch out for:1,6

  • Sensations of fluttering or palpitations in the heart
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness/ Light-headedness
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Chest pain

Is atrial fibrillation dangerous?

Yes. AFib can lead to blood clots in the heart and increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.1

While AF may not be a life-threatening condition in its own right, it is serious, and needs to be treated properly to prevent more dangerous cardiovascular complications.1

What causes atrial fibrillation?

The most common causes of AF are:1,7

  • High blood pressure over a long period of time
  • Coronary artery disease (reduced blood flow to the heart caused by clogging of the arteries)
  • Problems with the valves of the heart
  • Chest/heart surgery
  • Thyroid disease
  • Use of stimulants, including certain medications, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol

Some people experience AF as a one-off episode, while in others, it may come and go, or persist for a long time.

What are the risk factors for AF?

Age – the risk of AF increases as we grow older

  • Heart disease – for example, issues with heart valves, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, or a history of heart attack or heart surgery
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Thyroid disease. In some people, thyroid problems may trigger atrial fibrillation.
  • Other chronic health conditions such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, lung disease or sleep apnoea may increase the risk of AF
  • Alcohol can trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation, especially binge drinking
  • Family history – there is an increased risk of atrial fibrillation in some families

While we can’t stop growing older or change history or hereditary risk, we can try some lifestyle changes to help reduce high blood pressure and the risk of diabetes and obesity. Keeping a close watch on your blood pressure is easy with a digital blood pressure monitor. Check out the range of Omron devices here.

*Always read & follow the instructions for use & health warnings. For people with high blood pressure. Consult your doctor to evaluate the readings. Check your device periodically for accuracy. ^A diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB) can only be confirmed by Electrocardiogram (ECG). If the AFIB symbol appears, consult your doctor.

Sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atrial-fibrillation/symptoms-causes/syc-20350624
  2. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/arrhythmia
  3. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tx4097abc
  4. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/heart-valve-circulatory-human-2222964/
  5. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/atrial-fibrillation/causes-risks-triggers-afib
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm
  7. https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/getmedia/e985c7bd-5e48-4860-8218-bb8ffedbe0fd/Atrial_Fibrillation_Brochure_2020_WEB_Eugene-Lugg.pdf

 


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