Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) can happen to anyone.
Many people who have AFib are not getting the treatment they need.
A racing, pounding heartbeat that happens for no apparent reason should not be ignored, especially when other symptoms are also present, like shortness of breath with light physical activity or lightheadedness, dizziness, or unusual fatigue. AFib is an irregular heartbeat or a condition in which the heart muscles fail to contract in a strong, rhythmic way. When a heart is in AFib, it may not be pumping enough oxygen-rich blood out to the body. View an animation of AFib.
Why is AFib associated with a five-times-greater risk for stroke? When the heart is in AFib, the blood can become static and can be left pooling inside the heart. When blood pools, a clot can form. When a clot is pumped out of the heart, it can get lodged in the arteries which may cause a stroke. Blocked arteries prevent the tissue on the other side from getting oxygen-rich blood, and without oxygen the tissue dies.
Any person who has AFib needs to evaluate stroke risks and determine with a healthcare provider what must be done to lower the risks. Studies show that many people with AFib who need risk-lowering treatments are not getting them. Learn more about stroke risks with the CHA2DS2–VASc tool.
If I don’t have these symptoms, should I be concerned? There are people who have atrial fibrillation that do not experience any symptoms. These people may be diagnosed at a regular check-up or their AFib may be discovered when a healthcare provider listens to their heart for some other reason.
However, people who have AFib with no symptoms still have a five-times-greater risk of stroke. Everyone needs to receive regular medical check-ups to help keep risks low and live a long and healthy life.