Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular and abnormal heartbeat. Here, the upper chambers of the heart start beating out of sync, causing rapid contractions of the heart muscle up to 400 beats per minute. Contractions regulate the blood flow to and from the organ, so when dealing with AFib, blood can accumulate, causing various issues that require immediate treatment. So, one should keep an eye out for the following common signs of atrial fibrillation:
Atrial fibrillation primarily affects the regular heart rate, making the heartbeat race and pound against the rib cage. Those affected often experience a fluttering or pounding sensation in the heart and could describe the palpitations as the heart audibly skipping a beat. This sensation is extremely noticeable and is different from the normal palpitations one experiences due to anxiety or stress. The palpitations can develop erratically without any prior warning and can vary in intensity from person to person.
Shortness of breath
Breathlessness is a common symptom that overlaps with many known cardiovascular and respiratory issues. The heart is responsible for pumping freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs to other organs and extremities of the body. However, atrial fibrillation results in erratic circulation that could lead to shortness of breath. This symptom should not be overlooked.
Chest pain is one of the more serious signs of atrial fibrillation. Here, pain that radiates from the left arm and reaches the chest is an indicator of a heart attack. However, with AFib, the pain develops with a pressure system in the chest cavity that compromises respiration. Any pressure that builds up with or without shooting pains is a sign that the heart is unable to pump blood as it should.
Dizziness and confusion
The brain relies on a fresh supply of oxygen-rich blood to function. However, atrial fibrillation directly affects the heart’s ability to pump blood from the lungs to the brain. Here, the lack of oxygen affects brain function, usually interfering with cognitive processes, reasoning and analytical skills, and memory. Further, AFib can increase the risk of developing dizziness and even fainting due to prolonged oxygen cut-off to the brain. Keeping an eye out for such symptoms can help one seek timely treatment.
It is important to differentiate between weakness and fatigue. Weakness can be the result of poor nutrition, overexertion, and even unhealthy lifestyle choices. On the other hand, fatigue can be brought on by health conditions, especially cardiovascular issues that compromise respiration, increase the risk of anemia, and lower the body’s immunity to fight off diseases. These issues are triggered by the lack of oxygen-rich blood circulating in the body. So, those affected may experience low energy and extreme exhaustion.
AFib can cause nighttime symptoms like heavy breathing while sleeping, frequent night sweats, interrupted sleep due to an uneasy sensation in the chest, and feelings of anxiety after waking up. Those with AFib may also develop sleep apnea that interrupts breathing and causes further damage to the body due to reduced oxygen retention during circulation.
If one notices any persistent signs of atrial fibrillation, they should consult a cardiac specialist who can offer an early diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.