Between 2.7 million and 6.1 million people in the US currently have atrial fibrillation. Despite how common the condition is, many people don’t know what to look out for.
By understanding the symptoms of atrial fibrillation, you can get help the moment you need it. Failing to visit a doctor promptly, however, could put your life at risk. In fact, you could increase your risk of developing atrial fibrillation based on the lifestyle choices you’re making without realizing it.
Get the help you need and prolonge your life! Keep reading to discover the signs of AFib and determine when it’s time to see a doctor with this helpful guide!
The Most Common Symptoms
For most patients, the most common symptoms of atrial fibrillation include a quivering or fluttering heartbeat. An irregular heartbeat occurs when electrical impulses fire abnormally. This causes the top chambers in your heart (the atria) to quiver.
While a fluttering heartbeat is one of the most common signs of AFib, it’s not always the most obvious. In fact, many people have AFib but don’t experience symptoms. These patients usually need to visit a doctor to complete a physical examination before they receive their diagnosis.
Other patients experience one or two other symptoms. Speak with a doctor if you experience any of these AFib symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Fluttering in your chest
- Fatigue when exercising
- Chest pain
If you experience chest pain or pressure, call 911 immediately. There’s a chance you’re experiencing a heart attack.
If you experience any combination of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Once they confirm the diagnosis, they’ll help you make the necessary changes to reduce your risk of potential complications.
Heart Attack Versus AFib Symptoms
Some people confusing AFib symptoms with a heart attack. It’s important to know how to differentiate between a heart attack and AFib. Remember, if you’re experiencing a heart attack, you need to call 911 as soon as possible.
While heart palpitations are one of the main symptoms for AFib, patients with other heart issues experience the same symptoms. How can you determine the difference between a heart attack and AFib?
During a heart attack, blood can’t flow to your heart properly. This occurrence is usually caused by a clot or plaque build-up. Plaque can lodge itself in your coronary artery, which is the vessel responsible for carrying blood to your heart muscle.
A heart attack could potentially destroy part of your heart muscle.
In most cases, heart attacks are intense and sudden. However, there are some cases when a heart attack starts slowly. In these cases, you’ll first experience mild pain.
You might not realize you’re having a heart attack and request help until it’s too late.
Heart Attack Symptoms
If you’re experiencing a heart attack, you’ll likely notice discomfort at the center of your chest. This discomfort can last a few minutes. It might even go away before returning again.
The chest pain will feel like a squeeze or pressure.
You’ll also notice discomfort in other areas of the body, including your:
- Both arms
Many people also experience shortness of breath with or without accompanying chest discomfort. Other common heart attack symptoms include cold sweat, lightheadedness, or nausea.
Differentiating the symptoms of a heart attack versus AFib symptoms can ensure you request the proper care.
If you experience chest pain or discomfort, it’s important to receive medical help as soon as possible. A medical professional will determine if it’s a heart attack for you. Don’t try to make the judgment on your own, which could put your life at risk.
By 2060, it’s estimated that between 6 and 12 million people in the US will have AFib. Meanwhile, it’s estimated 17.9 million in Europe by 2060 will have the condition. As that number continues to grow, it’s important that everyone understands the condition as much as possible.
For example, atrial fibrillation could increase your risk of experiencing a stroke. Understanding the warning signs of a stroke can ensure you properly inform medical personnel of the situation when you or a loved one calls for help.
To remember the symptoms for a stroke, think FAST:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 911
The chaotic heart rhythm associated with Afib can cause blood to pool in your atria. A blood clot might form as a result. The blood clot might dislodge from your heart, travel to your brain, and cause a stroke.
Remember AFib increases your risk of a stroke. To reduce your risk:
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking and drinking
Your risk of experiencing a stroke due to your atrial fibrillation increases as you age. Taking certain medications can reduce your risk of developing blood clots or a stroke.
Different Types of AFib
Your doctor might determine you have a specific type of AFib. The symptoms of atrial fibrillation between each type of AFib are usually the same.
Patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation will notice their heart returning to normal rhythm on its own. This usually occurs within seven days of heart palpitations. Patients with paroxysmal AFib can either have episodes daily or throughout the year.
Without treatment, paroxysmal AFib could become a permanent form of AFib.
Persistent AFib, on the other hand, occurs if you have an irregular rhythm that lasts over a week. Your heart won’t return to normal rhythm on its own. Instead, you’ll need treatment.
Long-standing AFib occurs when your heart is consistently on an irregular rhythm.
You can learn more about the different types of AFIB to differentiate your classification. However, it’s important to know that all types can increase your risk of a stroke. Even if you’re not noticing the symptoms mentioned above, you’re still likely at risk.
Prepare Yourself: Understanding the Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Understanding the symptoms of atrial fibrillation is important. If you notice these AFib symptoms in yourself or a loved one, schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. Diagnosing the issue can ensure you make the necessary changes to improve your health and reduce your risk of stroke.
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