Approximately 1 in every 7.4 people in the US dies from a sudden cardiac event.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of arrhythmia. While it’s not always serious and doesn’t always cause symptoms, it does affect how the heart beats and cause a higher risk of strokes, hospitalization, and death.
Read on for facts on atrial fibrillation including what the condition is and what causes it.
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
Many patients don’t understand how common this deadly condition can be.
It’s the most common heart rhythm disorder in the world, affecting at least 1% of the population, 5% of those over 65, and 10% of everyone over the age of 80. At least 2.7 million patients in America alone have an atrial fibrillation diagnosis.
Patients also may not understand its severity. Only 33% of diagnosed patients believe it’s a serious condition, and less than half-realized they’re at an increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, hospitalizations, and death.
Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. It occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart, also known as the atria, don’t beat at the same rate as the rest of the heart.
There are three types of atrial fibrillation, and they differ in the symptoms they present and how long they last. They include paroxysmal, persistent, and permanent.
Paroxysmal is the name given to cases of atrial fibrillation that occur for a few seconds or days then stop without treatment. The heart may give off a few abnormal rhythms but then returns to normal.
Persistent atrial fibrillation lasts at least a week and doesn’t cure itself. It requires treatments such as surgery or medications.
Permanent atrial fibrillation is the most serious variety. The erratic heartbeats it causes can be managed by treatments but not corrected.
Every case is different; some are long-lasting and asymptomatic while some alert sufferers that something is wrong right away. Potential trial fibrillation symptoms to look out for include fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and chest pains.
If you notice any of these atrial fibrillation signs regularly, consult your doctor. They may conduct tests such as an EKG to measure your heart rate.
What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?
Most arrhythmias occur when the tissue and/or electrical signals of your heart changes. Causes of atrial fibrillation include:
- Heart disease
There are ways you can reduce your risk, and knowing them all is the first step. Conditions and lifestyle factors that also increase the likelihood of an atrial fibrillation diagnosis include:
- High blood pressure
- Old age
- Alcohol use
- Chronic kidney disease
- Genetic factors
Having any of these conditions or risk factors doesn’t guarantee you’ll get atrial fibrillation or experience symptoms when you do. Knowing the causes does allow you to avoid them to keep yourself safe.
Where Can I Learn More?
Getting the atrial fibrillation information you need helps you protect yourself from this deadly condition.
No two cases are exactly alike, but there are factors you can look out for to determine if you should see a doctor for a diagnosis. Signs include fatigue, lightheadedness, and chest pains.
Conditions that affect the tissue or electrical signaling of the heart put you at an increased risk. Certain lifestyle factors do as well.
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