You may have heard of atrial fibrillation or you may know someone who has it. Whether you know someone or have simply heard of it in passing, with National Atrial Fibrillation Month upon us, September is a good time to learn about this potentially dangerous cardiac condition.

So what is it?

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of arrhythmia, a condition that causes an irregular heartbeat. The condition is related to an issue with the heart’s electrical system that causes the two upper parts of the heart, also known as the “atria,” to quiver, or fibrillate.

Dr. Sean Beinart, electrophysiologist at Shady Grove Adventist and Washington Adventist Hospitals, explains that this quivering interrupts the natural rhythm between the upper parts of the heart, the atria, and the lower parts of the heart, the ventricles.

This can be dangerous because an irregular heartbeat, rather than a strong and steady one, can cause blood to pool in the atria. This increases the likeliness of clots, which may travel to the brain, causing a stroke. Atrial fibrillation can also cause heart failure, which occurs when the heart does not pump enough blood for the body.

Learn the signs of atrial fibrillation so you can take steps to prevent these serious complications.

Dr. Beinart notes the following symptoms:

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Feeling out of breath.
  • Feeling weak and tired.
  • Feeling like the heart is fluttering, racing, or pounding.
  • Feeling like the heart is beating unevenly.
  • Having chest pain, also known as angina.
  • Fainting.

One treatment for the condition is a procedure called ablation in which thin wires are inserted through a vein in the groin to eliminate the electrical heart triggers that cause atrial fibrillation.

If you believe you have atrial fibrillation, speak with your doctor about whether ablation or another treatment may be right for you.

Both Washington Adventist and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers offer cardiac services, classes and events. Learn how we can help keep you heart healthy.

Learn how one Washington Adventist patient overcame his atrial fibrillation in the video below.