What is A-Fib?

Atrial fibrillation, or A-Fib, is the most common heart rhythm disorder in the United States. It’s a condition in which the electrical impulses that control muscle contractions in the upper chambers of the heart become rapid and chaotic. About 160,000 new cases of A-Fib are diagnosed in the U.S. each year–but physicians believe that many people who have A-Fib have not been diagnosed.

The likelihood of developing A-Fib increases with age. The majority of people diagnosed with A-Fib are 55 or older. Between three and five percent of people over age 65 and nine percent of people over the age of 80 have A-Fib.

Diagnosing and treating A-Fib are important because, left untreated, it can lead to a number of serious heart conditions. Patients with A-Fib are also five times more likely to suffer a stroke. (Although you should see a doctor to diagnose A-Fib, one way to help asses your risk is to take your pulse. Click here for a step-by-step guide–or watch Archie Manning show how it’s done.)

One complicating factor is that the signs and symptoms of A-Fib can vary greatly from patient to patient. Some people experience a sudden heart flutter or tremor, or feel their heart “speed up” suddenly; other patients with A-Fib may not feel anything at all. Other symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness or difficulty exercising
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

A-Fib is not an emergency–but it is a serious condition. If you suspect you have A-Fib you should see your doctor immediately. Contact your primary care doctor–or find a St.Vincent doctor near you. Or make an appointment to see an A-Fib specialist at the St.Vincent A-Fib Center of Excellence. We can discuss the many treatment options available to treat and cure A-Fib–and help choose the one that’s right for you.