AFib: What is it, its prevalence and risk

Archive, March, Month

AFib can be a sign of several forms of heart disease and increases the risk for a stroke.

“It is very possible to live a fulfilling life after an AFib diagnosis, but it’s imperative not to ignore the symptoms and make an appointment with your cardiologist if you suspect anything.”

Dr. M. Cameron Willoughby, as a cardiac electrophysiologist, meets and treats many AFib patients, a condition in which 12.1 million people across the country live with every day.

AFib, or atrial fibrillation, is one of the most common forms of heart disease, but it’s also a common indicator of the presence of other heart disease.

“It’s critical to address this condition and not disregard any symptoms,” Dr. Willoughby said. “It could lead to something very serious.”

Common symptoms

AFib occurs when the heart’s chambers malfunction, causing an irregular heartbeat and the pooling of blood in the atria chamber of the heart.

This occurrence can cause a range of symptoms, with some of the most common being:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness

Risk factors

One of the more troubling health care trends observed across the country is the rise in uncontrolled high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is the main risk factor associated with AFib.

Other risk factors include:

  • History of heart attack or heart disease
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Excessive smoking or tobacco use
  • Excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol

Risk for stroke

The pooling of blood resulting from AFib is the ideal condition for blood clots to form. Those blood clots can enter the body’s vascular system, ultimately reaching the brain and causing a potentially devastating stroke.

Evidence has shown that 35 percent of AFib patients experience a stroke, and an AFib-related stroke is three times more likely to be fatal.