What is Atrial Fibrillation ?

an icy red heart on a grey background

What is Atrial Fibrillation ?

Atrial Fibrillation is the most common form of heart rhythm disturbance and a major cause of stroke.

It causes impulses to fire off from different places in the Atria (top heart chambers) resulting in chaotic electrical activity making the person have an irregular and often erratic heart beat.

Atrial Fibrillation affects about one million people in the UK and that by 2015 as many as 12 million world wide will have the condition. Many more have the condition but are un-diagnosed.

Atrial Fibrillation increases the risk of developing blood clots leading to a stroke. Even if you have no symptoms AF can increase the risk of stroke five fold.

The heart does not pump as effectively leading to a risk of heart failure at a later stage. The good news however is that with effective treatment these risks can be reduced dramatically.

The chances of developing AF increases as you age with 1 in every 100 over the age of 65. In an ageing world population the chance of developing the condition is becoming more common.

High blood pressure ,obesity and an overactive thyroid can make AF more likely as there is extra strain put on the heart which causes impulses to fire erratically.

What are the signs and symptoms ?

  • Being aware of your heart beating ( Palpitations )
  • Breathlessness
  • Tiredness

Some people have no symptoms however.

An irregular pulse is also a sign that you may have Atrial Fibrillation. It is important to check your pulse and if it doesn’t follow a regular pattern ,notify your GP.

To see how to check your pulse please watch the short video below.

If you prefer to reply on technology there are Devices to check your pulse .

(If you do decide to buy a device via this link I do earn a few pence which helps to fund this website, so thank you in advance.)


Award-winning blogger and care columnist for Devon Life magazine, Caron also campaigns for recognition of the needs elderly people and their carers. Designer and creator of the award-winning Dementia Assistance Cards which are free to all, and helping thousands of people globally Caron is passionate and committed to making a difference

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