Did you know the human heart beats more than 100,000 times a day? At that pace, it’s no wonder you might feel your heart skip a beat or flutter from time to time. However, if you notice your heart suddenly races or if you have uneven heartbeats that last several minutes, you may have a condition known as atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation (also called Afib) is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. Your heart’s electrical system tells your heart when to contract and pump blood to the rest of your body. With Afib, these electrical signals short circuit in a sense. This results in a chaotic, rapid heart rate. You might feel short of breath, dizzy and overly tired, though not everyone has these symptoms.
If you have Afib, it’s important to remember you’re not alone. Afib affects more than 2.5 million Americans. If untreated, it can lead to blood clots, stroke and heart failure. In fact, people with Afib are five times more likely to have a stroke than people without the condition.
How is atrial fibrillation diagnosed?
- The doctor will ask questions about your past health, do a physical exam, and order tests.
- The best way to find out if you have atrial fibrillation is to have an Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). An EKG is a test that checks for problems with the heart’s electrical activity.
- You might also have lab tests and an echocardiogram. An echocardiogram can show how well your heart is pumping and whether your heart valves are damaged.