1. What is Atrial Fibrillation (AF)?
Atrial Fibrillation or AF involves an abnormality in the heart rhythm wherein the heart’s two atria (the upper chambers) beat irregularly, creating chaotic electrical heart signals, placing the two lower ventricles (the lower chambers) out of coordination as well. As the upper chambers or atria control the normal (sinus) heart rhythm, the body’s pulse becomes irregular.
AF is the most common heart rhythm abnormality, with increasing prevalence with older age affecting 4-5% of the population over 70. Young people may also develop AF with certain triggers.
Frequent episodes of rapid irregular heart rates can increase one’s risk of heart-related complications such as heart failure and stroke. Imagine that your heart is continuously a high heart rate akin to running a slow marathon, 24 hours a day! This is what AF could do, with sustained periods of high rates in excess of 110 beats per minute – it’s no wonder that the heart tires and starts to weaken without rest, and this is what then leads to heart failure.
AF increases your risk of stroke by between 4 and 5-fold, and it is important to seek urgent treatment to prevent a stroke, and other complications.
Single lead electrocardiogram (ECG) showing irregularly irregular heart rates, which characterises Atrial Fibrillation (AF)