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Atrial Fibrillation: Understanding Symptoms, Risks, And Treatment

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Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is the most common supraventricular arrhythmia in Western countries – affecting at least 2.7 million people in the U.S. There are at least 2.7 million people in the U.S. with AFib. The most common symptom of AFib is a quivering or irregular heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is the most common supraventricular arrhythmia in Western countries – affecting at least 2.7 million people in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association.



AFib predominantly affects, but is not limited to, older people. This element is increasingly important because as our life expectancy continues to improve and the average age of the population increases, AFib is expected to grow and affect an estimated 50 million patients by 2060 across the U.S. and Europe. It’s important to learn the facts of this condition as early as possible.


The most common symptom of AFib is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (also known as an arrhythmia), though patients may experience palpitations, which are sensations of a racing, uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat, or a flip-flopping in your chest; lightheadedness and/or dizziness; confusion; shortness of breath and anxiety; weakness; fatigue; reduced ability to exercise; and/or chest pain or pressure. Please note, if you’re experiencing chest pain or pressure, call 911 immediately.

Now that we’ve outlined the most commons signs and symptoms of AFib, there’s one very important fact to note: Nearly one-third of AFib patients are asymptomatic. In other words, some people with AFib have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition until it’s discovered during a physical examination. Because of this fact, it’s crucial to schedule an annual physical exam with your doctor and understand your risks.


There are a growing number of ways we can treat AFib and achieve great results. However, if left untreated, AFib can evolve from a momentary episode into a chronic, longstanding and potentially even permanent issue, causing subsequent concerns such as blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart conditions. In fact, patients with AFib are nearly five times more likely to experience a stroke those without AFib, are at an increased risk of developing dementia and have a nearly doubled risk of experiencing a heart-related death.

Studies also show that individuals with AFib have an increased risk of renal disease.

It’s important to discuss your risk of heart failure with your doctor, as AFib and heart failure frequently coexist and are often associated with several common predisposing risk factors. These include hypertension, coronary artery disease, structural heart disease, diabetes, obesity and obstructive sleep apnea.

The Good News

There are a number of ways you can reduce your risk of developing AFib:

  1. Increase your physical activity. Obesity is a significant risk factor for AFib. Consult your doctor to learn more about ways to safely increase your levels of physical activity.

  2. Improve your diet. Undergo a weight-loss program and incorporate more fruits, vegetables and lean meats into your daily diet. Limit caffeine, alcohol, fats and excess salt. If necessary, consult your doctor about bariatric surgery.

  3. Treat your blood pressure. Have a diet with low salt, and take your medications routinely, as hypertension increases your risk of developing AFib.

  4. Treat your sleep apnea. If prescribed, remember to use your continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, mask every night. Doing so will improve your AFib.

  5. Control your diabetes. If diet and exercise alone don’t control your diabetes, please consult your doctor for more support and/or resources, as gaining control of your diabetes will reduce your risk of developing AFib.



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