Atrial fibrillation, often referred to as A-fib or AF, is the most common heart rhythm abnormality. It occurs when the electrical signals that control the heart are abnormal and the heartbeat becomes irregular. As a result of this abnormality, the atria stops pumping blood effectively, blood pools in certain areas and blood clots can form. These blood clots can travel through the blood vessels to the brain causing a stroke.
Atrial fibrillation can be controlled by reducing caffeine intake, controlling blood pressure, limiting alcohol consumption to a drink or two, treating an overactive thyroid, and getting regular exercise.
While there may be no symptoms from atrial fibrillation, patients that do experience symptoms that may be:
• Irregular heart beats
• Chest tightness
• Trouble breathing
Atrial fibrillation is usually diagnosed with an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). Other tests may include some blood tests looking for thyroid or liver problems, an echocardiogram, an ultrasound picture of the heart looking at the heart’s pumping function and checking the heart valves out. Also, a stress test may be performed to check the heart’s circulation.