Atrial Fibrillation: How Is Your Heart Beating? 5 Signs That Could Point to An Irregular Heartbeat by Dr. Warrick Bishop
Did you know that atrial fibrillation (AF) kills three times as many people as car accidents each year in the western world? The cost per person is greater than that for cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis, and is twice that of obesity. Yet many people don't even know they have it!
It is very likely that you or someone you love is one of the 30 million people worldwide who has the "irregularly irregular" heartbeat of atrial fibrillation. Do you know the signs? Here are the top five:
- No signs: Some people with AF have no symptoms and the condition is picked up incidentally during a routine physical examination. This is why it is important to have regular checkups with your doctor.
- Palpitations: Heart palpitations are the most common sign of AF. You may feel like your heart is racing or fluttering, that it has missed a beat or added an extra beat.
- Chest pain: It goes without saying that any kind of chest pain should always be checked out by your doctor.
- Shortness of breath: If you are generally fit and healthy, but are often short of breath, this may be cause for concern. It will probably worsen with exertion. Normal heart function should allow you to breathe easily.
- General fatigue, light-headedness or dizziness: If your heart is not pumping correctly, it causes general unwellness and a lower quality of life. Report ongoing symptoms to your doctor.
Symptoms of AF can come and go, be persistent (for more than seven days) or be permanent.
Wondering why it matters if your heart skips a beat? An irregular heart puts you at higher risk of stroke. One-quarter to one-third of strokes are due to clots formed in an AF heart, after breaking off and causing a blockage in the blood flow to the brain. AF cannot be cured, but the risk can be substantially reduced with modern treatment.
So, if you have been living with lethargy, palpitations, breathlessness, insomnia or chest tightness, please make an appointment to see your doctor.
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