Does your heartbeat ever feel irregular? Skip a few beats? Feel like it’s flip-flopping or quivering? Atrial Fibrillation is a potentially deadly problem, but one you likely haven’t heard about and may not realize exists. September is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) month, so if those symptoms sound familiar, read on to learn something that could save your life. They may be signs of AFib.

What is AFib?

Atrial Fibrillation is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. According to the American Heart Association, about 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib; it’s the most common type of arrhythmia in the U.S. Some people with AFib experience nausea or light-headedness. Others report feeling weak, having a fast heartbeat or feeling short of breath. During an episode of atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly (quiver) instead of beating effectively to move blood into the ventricles.

Signs of AFib

The problem with AFib is that it may cause a blood clot to break off, which can then enter the bloodstream and cause a stroke. AFib doubles the risk of heart-related death and increases your chance of a stroke by five times. If you have any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

  • General fatigue
  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Fluttering or “thumping” in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath and anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Faintness or confusion
  • Fatigue when exercising
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain or pressure (if you have this, go to the ER immediately)

However, AFib may not present with symptoms, which is why it’s essential to visit your doctor each year for a physical.

Risk Factors of AFib

A family history of the condition increases the risk of developing AFib. You’re also at a higher risk if you have high blood pressure, sleep apnea, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, thyroid problems, major surgery, lung disease, or kidney disease. Other factors include previous stroke, obesity, and smoking.

Can AFib Be Prevented?

Preventing AFib is the same as preventing many other health problems, which is eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise as well as maintaining a healthy weight. If you have lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or other health conditions, it’s critical to treat those to help prevent AFib.

While there is no cure for the condition, people with AFib can work with their doctors to restore a normal rhythm and prevent blood clots.

If you feel concerned based on the list of symptoms, make an appointment today with one of our Generations Family Practice doctors to learn more.