Skip Navigation
Search Menu
Healthy Heart

Know Your Risks

5 Things You Should Know about Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)

Heart shown against a heart rate reading

Atrial fibrillation, commonly known as AFib or AF, is a condition that causes the upper chambers of the heart to beat irregularly and extremely fast (about 500–600 beats per minute). AFib is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, affecting more than 5 million adults in the United States.

Here are five things you may not know but should know about AFib:

1. Age is the greatest risk factor for AFib. One in 10 people over the age of 80 have the heart condition. Other common risk factors include heart disease, diabetes, obesity and family history.

2. AFib may or may not cause symptoms. The most common symptoms include:

• Irregular and rapid heartbeat
• Heart palpitations
• Dizziness
• Shortness of breath
• Weakness
• Fainting
• Fatigue

3. AFib is diagnosed with an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). This test can be performed during an office vist. However, sometimes patients are asked to wear a monitor at home to record their heart rhythm over time.

4. There are several treatment options for patients with AFib. In most cases, AFib can be controlled with medications. However, if medications do not work or have side effects, AFib can be treated with catheter or surgical ablation. Patients with an increasesd risk of stroke will be placed on blood thinners or other medication.

5. Nearly 35 percent of people with AFib will have a stroke. AFib increases the risk of stroke by fivefold. It is important for patients to meet with their doctor to determine if their stroke risk is high enough to warrant being placed on blood thinners. If the patient is unable to take a blood thinner due to bleeding risks, the doctor may recommend a procedure to occlude the left atrial appendage.

Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) Occlusion Procedures

Watch as Hugh Calkins, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Cardiac Arrhythmia Service, discusses the latest treatments for AFib management, particularly for patients at risk of stroke.

If you have any symptoms of AFib, meet with your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will determine if you have AFib and will talk to you about the best approach for AFib management.

You May Also Like

Heart Rhythms: What's Normal Versus Cause for Concern?

Many things can affect your heart rhythms throughout your life, usually in ways that will not harm you. But when is a change in heart rhythms a health alert?

Strawberries and dark chocolate

6 Healthy Heart Splurges

Making heart-healthy choices shouldn’t be drudgery. In fact, a Johns Hopkins heart disease expert says it can be downright enjoyable.

happy couple riding bikes

ABCs of Keeping Heart Healthy

Lifestyle changes that are within your control can change the course of your heart health in dramatic ways, Johns Hopkins research shows. Learn how you can substantially lower your risk of dying from heart disease—or any related cause.