September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month. It is a disorder that impacts more than five million people in the United States, with expectations of close to 16 million by the year 2050 according to the Mayo Clinic.
What is atrial fibrillation?
Grand Rapids Spectrum Health Hospital reports atrial fibrillation, or simply afib, is a heart rhythm disorder characterized by an irregular heartbeat, a rapid heartbeat, or a quivering of the upper chambers of the heart. It can effect both men and women, and becomes more common with increasing age.
Causes of afib include:
- Alcohol use (especially binge drinking)
- Congestive heart failure
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart surgery
- High blood pressure
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Overactive thyroid gland
- Valvular heart disease
Symptoms to watch for include:
- Pulse that feels rapid, racing, pounding, fluttering, or too slow
- Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness, light-headedness
How serious is afib?
Atrial fibrillation is a risky and potentially life-threatening disorder. Since the blood doesn’t properly move from the atria into the ventricles and then on to the rest of the body, it can starve the body of oxygen-rich blood, leaving you weak, tired, or incapacitated. Additionally, the blood that remains in the atria can pool and create blood clots, which may cause a stroke.
For more on atrial fibrillation from Spectrum Health
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