Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. Certain cells in your heart make electric signals that cause the heart to contract and pump blood. These electrical signals show up on an electrocardiogram (ECG) recording. Your doctor can read your ECG to find out if the electric signals are normal.
In atrial fibrillation (AFib), the heart’s two small upper chambers (atria) don’t beat the way they should. Instead of beating in a normal pattern, the atria beat irregularly and too fast, quivering like a bowl of gelatin. It’s important for the heart to pump properly so your body gets the oxygen and food it needs.
How do I know I have atrial fibrillation?
Here are some of the symptoms you may have:
- Irregular and rapid heartbeat
- Heart palpitations or rapid thumping inside the chest • Dizziness, sweating and chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath or anxiety
- Tiring more easily when exercising
- Fainting (syncope)
- Medicines, such as beta blockers, to help return your heart rate to a normal rhythm.
- Medicines calcium channel blockers or amiodarone to help slow your heart rate.
- Blood thinners to keep blood clots from forming. Two examples are anticoagulants and antiplatelets, such as warfarin and aspirin.
- Electrical cardioversion (an electric shock) to change the beat of your heart back to normal.
- Surgery, a pacemaker or other procedures may be needed.