Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.
In fact, having AFib makes you up to five times more likely to have a stroke, according to the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all.Most strokes caused by AFib could be prevented with effective treatment, but only about half of AFib patients receive proper therapy.Approximately 5.2 million people in the United States experience AFib, and that number is expected to more than double in the next ten years, according to the American Heart Association.
Although anyone can develop AFib at any age, the risk is greatest for individuals older than 50 years, those with a family history of AFib, smokers and those with high blood pressure or other forms of heart disease.Although AFib is less prevalent in Black and Latino individuals compared with white individuals, Black and Latino people living with AFib have a higher risk of AFib-related death when they also have conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure, according to the American Stroke Association.
The best-known symptom of AFib is a fluttering heartbeat, but not all individuals with AFib experience this, and many people with AFib report no symptoms prior to diagnosis.”Because of this, it’s important that people at risk for AFib continuously speak to their doctors about any unusual sensations involving their heartbeat,” says Mark Estes, M.D., FACC, FHRS, American Heart Association volunteer medical expert and professor of Medicine and Program Director of the Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Other symptoms of AFib include shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, faintness, sweating and chest pressure.Up to 84% of strokes caused by AFib are preventable if patients receive early, effective treatment. That means it is important to talk to your doctor if you are at increased risk for AFib. The American Stroke Association offers a downloadable symptom tracker that can serve as an important tool for conversations with your doctor about how to stay healthy.To learn ways to manage AFib, the American Stroke Association has created an online portal, MyAFibExperience, where individuals with AFib can share their stories and learn from the experiences of others.