Increasing Awareness of Atrial Fibrillation

Research has shown that atrial fibrillation (AFib) is one of the most common sustained heart rhythm abnormalities, affecting an estimated 2.3 million Americans, but other investigations suggest that the condition may affect millions more. “Atrial fibrillation is a potentially serious condition,” says Nassir F. Marrouche, MD. “The irregular heartbeat associated with AFib can cause blood to pool in the atria, which can result in the formation of clots. These blood clots can travel from the heart to the brain, where they can lead to stroke.” According to current estimates, AFib increases the risk of stroke nearly five-fold. About 15% of all strokes in the United States are associated with AFib. Strokes that are associated with AFib are about twice as likely to be fatal or severely disabling as non–AFib-related strokes. In the United States, studies have predicted that as many as 5.6 million American adults will have AFib by 2050. One of the largest demographics to be affected by AFib includes elderly individuals. It has been estimated that 3% to 5% of elderly Americans have AFib, but that number may be larger because symptoms often go unrecognized by patients and physicians alike. Spotting AF Symptoms One of the aspects of AFib that makes it difficult to manage is that the condition is not always accompanied with symptoms. Published studies have shown that several symptoms may be attributable to AFib, including racing or irregular heartbeat, fluttering in the chest, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms of AFib include chest pain, fatigue when exercising, sweating, and weakness, dizziness, or faintness. “It’s challenging for physicians to identify AFib because the...