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Feeling butterflies or fluttering in your chest can bring back fond memories of a first date or exciting news. But when fleeting emotions aren’t a factor, you’re likely experiencing heart palpitations. While usually harmless, heart palpitations can sometimes indicate a deeper health problem, such as atrial fibrillation or AFib.
Keep a steady beat and a healthy heart by equipping yourself with information all about AFib, including what it is, risk factors and how to reduce them, and signs you should get screened. Read on to learn more.
What is AFib?
Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common types of irregular heartbeats. If you have AFib, your heart beats much faster than normal. It also beats irregularly, which means your body doesn’t get enough blood.
Atrial fibrillation can happen for a few hours or last up to a week or longer. For some people, atrial fibrillation lasts more than a year. It causes symptoms such as:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Dizziness or fainting
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath, even at rest or when lying down
If atrial fibrillation isn’t treated, it can lead to serious health problems such as stroke, heart failure or heart attack.
AFib Risk Factors
Anyone can develop AFib, but certain situations or conditions can increase your risk.
Risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation include being age 50 and older, being male, having a family history of AFib, and lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, being sedentary or overweight, smoking, substance abuse and high stress levels.
The good news is that you can lower your AFib risk by following these healthy lifestyle guidelines:
Other risk factors include previous heart attack, heart valve problems, sleep apnea, and if you have diabetes, asthma or hyperthyroidism.
When Should I Be Screened for AFib?
Experiencing symptoms and having risk factors warrants an AFib screening. Physicians recommend screenings for all adults aged 50 and up and those aged 40 and up with any additional health- or lifestyle-related risk factors listed above.
During an AFib screening, a 6-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) is performed by placing sensors on the arms and legs to screen for Atrial Fibrillation.
Remember, AFib impacts more than your heart health — it can lead to serious and even life-threatening conditions such as blood clots. When left unmanaged, AFib can double your risk of heart-related death and increase your stroke risk five times.
If you have concerns or new or worsening symptoms, reach out to your provider and ask about an AFib screening today.
Keep Up the Pace with Your Cardiology Experts
Whether you want to learn more about symptoms or have been diagnosed with an arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation, we’re here to give you the information and resources you need to make decisions about your care. Visit us here to learn more.