What is Atrial Fibrillation?

If you have AF, your heart beats with an irregular rhythm. The upper chambers of the heart (called the atria) beat rapidly and out of rhythm with the lower chambers of the heart (called the ventricles). As a result of this rapid and irregular heartbeat (called fibrillation) your heart does not pump blood as efficiently as it should.

Did you know?

The heart consists of four chambers which pump blood around the body, enabling the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. In a healthy heart, all four chambers beat in a synchronised rhythm. Normally the heart beats around 60 to 100 times per minute.

structure of the heart

Who gets Atrial Fibrillation?

There is no typical AF patient. AF occurs in both men and women of all races and can occur at any age, though it is more common in those over 75 years of age. While AF can run in the family, most people diagnosed have no family history of the disease. Some illnesses and diseases can make a person more susceptible to AF, but it can also occur without warning.

What causes Atrial Fibrillation?

The exact cause is not known, but the risk of developing AF increases with age, and it is associated with some of the following conditions (this is not an exhaustive list):

High blood pressurePneumonia
Coronary heart diseaseLung cancer
Mitral valve disease (caused by rheumatic heart disease, valve problems at birth, or infection)Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in a lung artery)
Congenital heart disease (abnormality of the heart present since birth)Overactive thyroid
Sleep apnoeaDiabetes

If left untreated or poorly managed, AF may lead to serious health complications including heart failure and stroke. In addition, alcohol and drug abuse or misuse may predispose you to AF. While the risk of AF can increase with the conditions mentioned, you don’t have to have one of these conditions to develop AF.

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