How to Recognize the Warning Signs of Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms

Did you know that it’s estimated that by the year 2030, around 12.1 million people will have AFib in the U.S. alone? Atrial fibrillation symptoms can be “silent” or hard to detect.

Understanding what AFib is, the symptoms, and its risk factors are critical for proper diagnosis and treatment.    

Keep reading to learn how to spot the potential warning signs of atrial fibrillation symptoms.

What Is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation, also commonly shortened to AFib, is a condition characterized by an irregular heart rhythm. The fibrillation (or flutter or quiver) happens dues to abnormal and rapid electrical activity in the upper two heart chambers, the atria. These erratic and unsynchronized electric pulses impede normal blood flow and raise the heart rate to potentially dangerous levels during an episode of AFib. 

Episodes of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation come on suddenly but go away on their own within seven days. The symptoms may come and go. 

AFib lasting for longer than seven days is persistent atrial fibrillation. This type of abnormal heart rhythm may resolve on its own but may require medical intervention. 

When the problem lasts for one year or longer, it’s called long-standing persistent or permanent AFib. It is challenging to manage as typical treatments can’t control the heart rhythm. 

Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms

AFib symptoms range from mild and cause little to no impact on a person’s quality of life. A person without a diagnosed health condition may have minor signs and not know they’ve been living with atrial fibrillation. On the other hand, a severe episode may cause intense symptoms, like: 

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Anxiety 
  • Vertigo 
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating 
  • Generalized weakness
  • Fainting
  • Difficulty walking
  • Chest discomfort or pain

These symptoms can suddenly come on, and it can be mistaken for a heart attack for someone without a diagnosed health condition. Similarly, there’s a significant overlap between symptoms of AFib and a heart attack or other acute cardiac issues. So if you experience these symptoms, call 911 or go to the emergency department. 

Substances such as caffeine, stimulants, or alcohol cause potentially trigger AFib episodes in those with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Similarly, dehydration, overexertion, or illness could possibly set off an AFib attack. 

AFib Risk Factors 

While precisely what causes atrial fibrillation is yet to be discovered, it occurs more frequently in older people and specific health conditions. Some of these conditions include:

  • Hypertension
  • Diseases affecting the heart valves
  • Cardiomyopathy 
  • Heart defects 
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Sick sinus syndrome
  • Pericarditis

Chronic disorders like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, asthma, obesity increase a person’s risk for AFib.

Family History 

AFib is one of the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmias. That begs the question: is atrial fibrillation hereditary?

AFib that runs in families is familial atrial fibrillation, and it does increase your chance of developing the condition, no matter your age or health. Risk is also higher in those who smoke, binge drink, are overweight/obese, use stimulants, have a sedentary lifestyle, and experience chronic stress. Talk to a doctor about lifestyle modifications and your family medical history. 

The Basics of Atrial Fibrillation Explained 

Atrial fibrillation symptoms can come on suddenly with no warning. AFib episodes could be triggered by an unhealthy lifestyle or run in your family; no matter what, recognizing the symptoms is crucial so you can get the proper treatment.

If you found this article helpful, explore the rest of our site for more health and wellness posts. 

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