Electrocardiogram (ECG)

Atrial Fibrillation

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) is a disorder of the heart’s electrical activity, where your heart beats irregularly and often fast, and can lead to stroke, heart failure and even early death.

How common is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart rhythm disorder:

Why should we be concerned about atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation reduces your heart’s ability to pump blood and this lack of flow inside the atrium can lead to a blood clot. If this clot breaks away and travels to the brain, it can result in a stroke.

AF can trigger a rapid heart rate. This may reduce the filling of the ventricle and lead to heart failure. If high heart rates are sustained over time, this can weaken the heart muscle and lead to cardiomyopathy.

What are the symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation symptoms can vary widely, with some patients experiencing no symptoms and others having severe symptoms. Some of the common ones to look out for include:

There can be a disconnect between symptoms and risk so even when you have no symptoms, you can still be at risk of stroke or developing heart failure. Alternatively, having severe AF symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you are more at risk of AF than someone with mild or no symptoms.

What are the risk factors for atrial fibrillation?

Some atrial fibrillation risk factors include:

The risk factors mentioned above are ones which we can monitor and minimise. Some risk factors which cannot be controlled include:

Genetics and Atrial Fibrillation

Scientists at the Institute are looking into what role genetics plays in the risk and treatment of AF. Professor Diane Fatkin is leading the research, and recently received a one million dollar grant to advance the groundbreaking work being done. Watch the video below as she explains how the funding is being used.

How is atrial fibrillation diagnosed?

Electrocardiogram (ECG) shows the electrical activity of your heart and is the main tool for diagnosing atrial fibrillation (AF).

Other tests that are often used to assess heart function and to look for causes of AF include:

Over the last few years, there’s been a huge increase in technology available for use in the home. A monitor on your wrist, for instance, can give you an alert if you have an irregular heart rhythm or can take an ECG that can be sent straight to your doctor.

What treatments are available for atrial fibrillation?

How to reduce risk of developing atrial fibrillation?

Lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce the risk of developing atrial fibrillation include:

With the correct treatment and management AF can be managed and the patient can continue to have a long and active life.

Male patient in hospital bed after heart surgery

“I had no warning signs, no pain, I just went down."

- Warren, atrial fibrillation patient

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land, the Gadigal of the Eora nation, on which we meet, work, and discover.
Our Western Australian laboratories pay their respect to the Whadjuk Noongar who remain as the spiritual and cultural custodians of their land.

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