Atrial fibrillation is the most common problem with the rate and rhythm of heartbeat or also known as the type of cardiac arrhythmia. The worrying part is that atrial fibrillation is the leading cardiac cause of stroke. Know more about atrial fibrillation on DoctorOnCall’s Health Centre.
Generally, your heart is made up of four chambers, two upper chambers (called theatria) and two lower chambers (called the ventricles). There is a group of cells within the heart’s upper right chamber, called the sinus node. Sinus node is the heart’s natural pacemaker, which produces the signal that normally starts each heartbeat.
Atrial fibrillation occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart undergo chaotic electrical signals that make it squeezes very fast and out of sync. The result is an irregular and rapid heart rhythm. Besides, the heart rate in atrial fibrillation may range from 100 to 175 beats a minute. When the heart contracts so quickly, it will make the heart walls fibrillate, or quiver.
The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but it is more common with age and affects certain groups of people more than others.
Atrial fibrillation is common in people who have heart problems, which may include the following:
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- congenital heart disease
- heart valve disease
However, some people who have atrial fibrillation do not have any heart defects or damage.
Atrial fibrillation is also associated with other medical illness, such as:
- hyperactive thyroid gland – Hyperthyroidism or Grave disease.
- type 2 diabetes
- pneumonia or lung infections
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – It often occurs in people with smoking habits.
- pulmonary embolism
- lung cancer
- carbon monoxide poisoning
Nevertheless, not everyone with atrial fibrillation has one of the conditions or illness listed above. In rare cases, it may affect people who are physically fit, including athletes.
Concurrently, if there are no other conditions associated with atrial fibrillation, it is known as lone atrial fibrillation. The cause of lone atrial fibrillation is still unclear, and serious complications are rare.
Certain factors can trigger an episode or increase the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, these include:
- Age – Atrial fibrillation more likely occurs in people with an older age.
- Smoking – Smoking will enhance atherosclerosis through effects on oxidative stress, endothelial function, inflammation, lipids, and thrombosis. These effects may indirectly increase atrial fibrillation susceptibility by predisposing to myocardial infarction, atrial ischemia as well as heart failure. Besides, as stated above, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and reduced lung function can also increase vulnerability to atrial fibrillation.
- Heart disease- Individuals with heart disease including heart valve problems, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, or a history of heart attack or heart surgery have an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
- High blood pressure – Risk of atrial fibrillation increases in people who are having high blood pressure, especially if it is not well-controlled with medications, or lifestyle changes.
- Other chronic conditions – Certain chronic conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, sleep apnea, thyroid problems, chronic kidney disease or lung disease can trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation.
- Drinking alcohol – Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation for some people. Besides, the risk is even higher in people who practice binge drinking.
- Obesity- Obesity has a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
- Family history – Some families have an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation can be caused by many conditions and factors. If you are concerned about your health, it is best for you to make an appointment with your doctor. Other than health screening, your doctor may order an electrocardiogram to determine whether it is an atrial fibrillation or other health conditions.