What is Atrial Fibrillation?

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib)¹ is a common heart rhythm disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the heart's upper chambers, called the atria, beat irregularly and out of sync with the lower chambers, known as the ventricles. This irregular heartbeat can lead to various symptoms and increase the risk of serious complications, including stroke and heart failure.

What causes Atrial Fibrillation?

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of atrial fibrillation. These include:

  • High blood pressure²: Hypertension is a significant risk factor for AFib.
  • Heart conditions: People with existing heart problems, such as coronary artery disease³, heart valve disorders, or congenital heart defects, are more likely to develop AFib.
  • Age: The risk of atrial fibrillation increases with age, particularly after the age of 60.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese can put extra strain on the heart and increase the likelihood of developing AFib.
  • Alcohol and stimulants: Excessive alcohol consumption and the use of stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can trigger atrial fibrillation episodes.

SR Vs AF Image of ECG

What are the symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?

Some people with atrial fibrillation may not experience any symptoms and only discover their condition during a routine medical examination. However, others may experience the following:

  • Irregular heartbeat: The most common symptom of AFib is a rapid and irregular heartbeat.
  • Heart palpitations: Some individuals may feel their heart pounding, fluttering, or skipping beats.
  • Shortness of breath: AFib can cause difficulty breathing, especially during physical exertion.
  • Fatigue: Feeling tired or exhausted even with minimal activity is another common symptom.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness: Some people may experience a sensation of dizziness or faintness.

How is Atrial Fibrillation diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosing atrial fibrillation typically involves a combination of medical history review, physical examination, and diagnostic tests, such as electrocardiogram⁴ (ECG) and echocardiogram⁵. Once diagnosed, the treatment options for AFib may include:

  • Medications: Doctors may prescribe medications to control heart rate, rhythm, and reduce the risk of blood clots.
  • Cardioversion: This procedure uses electrical shocks or medications to restore a normal heart rhythm.
  • Catheter ablation: It involves the use of radiofrequency energy or freezing to destroy the heart tissue responsible for the irregular heartbeat.
  • Implantable devices: In some cases, a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)⁶ may be recommended to regulate the heart's rhythm.

It's important to note that the treatment approach may vary depending on the individual's overall health, the severity of symptoms, and the underlying cause of AFib.


Atrial fibrillation is a common heart rhythm disorder characterized by irregular and rapid heartbeats. It can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life and increase the risk of serious complications. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for AFib is crucial for early detection and effective management of the condition. If you suspect you may have atrial fibrillation or experience any concerning symptoms, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.



1. Atrial fibrillation | Mayo Clinic

2. The Facts about Hypertension | Cardiac X

3. What are the different types of heart disease? | Cardiac X

4. What are ECG Electrodes? | Cardiac X

5. VEC Homepage

6. Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators | Health Direct

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