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StopAfib.org · New Jersey Afib Specialists
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is a common type of irregular heartbeat.
There are two types of AFib — one caused by a heart valve problem and one that is not. In the U.S., AFib not caused by a heart valve problem was estimated to affect approximately 6.4 million people in 2014.
With AFib, the top chambers of the heart (the atria) do not contract properly to push blood through the heart. As a result, some blood remains in the atria, which can pool, and clots may form.
These clots can travel to the brain, blocking or limiting blood flow, and may result in a stroke. Strokes due to AFib can be more severe and more likely to be fatal than strokes not associated with AFib.
People with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem are at an increased risk of stroke, even if they have no symptoms. People with AFib not caused by a heart valve problem are five times more likely to have a stroke than those who do not.
Some patients describe Afib as feeling like skipped heartbeats, followed by a thud and a speeding up or racing of the heart. Others describe it as an erratic heartbeat, strong heart palpitations, or simply a rapid heart rate. For still others, it feels like fluttering, butterflies, or even a flopping fish in the chest. Others have chest and throat pressure that mimics a heart attack, or constriction around the left bicep.
The first time, it’s really scary, and you wonder, “Is this a heart attack?” It may leave you dizzy, faint, light-headed, anxious, breathless, weak, or just plain exhausted. After it stops, you may feel drained.
For some people, afib doesn’t stop, and may continue on for hours, days, weeks, months, or even years.
If you have AFib that is not caused by a heart valve problem, it is important to speak with your doctor about treatment options that can help reduce the risk of stroke.