Health

Alcohol causes immediate effects linked to heart malady

A daily alcoholic drink for women or two for men might be good for heart health, compared to drinking more or not drinking at all. But while there is some evidence that drinking in moderation might prevent heart attacks, ...

Cardiology

Study highlights potential targets for heart failure prevention

The prevalence of heart failure in the United States is a growing concern. A new study led by a Yale physician analyzes the variations in how often heart failure occurs in patients with risk factors such as hypertension, ...

Cardiology

Study reveals nutrients used by normal and failing hearts

A team led by scientists in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has produced a detailed picture of fuel and nutrient use by the human heart. The study, published this week in Science, was the ...

Cardiology

Research pinpoints sources of atrial fibrillation

People who suffer from persistent atrial fibrillation in the heart may find relief from a new treatment approach discovered by researchers at The Ohio State University Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute.

Cardiology

Anticoagulant benefits for atrial fibrillation decrease with age

The net clinical benefit of anticoagulants for atrial fibrillation (AF)—one of the most important causes of irregular heartbeats and a leading cause of stroke—decreases with age, as the risk of death from other factors ...

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Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF or afib) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) and involves the two upper chambers (atria) of the heart. Its name comes from the fibrillating (i.e. quivering) of the heart muscles of the atria, instead of a coordinated contraction. It can often be identified by taking a pulse and observing that the heartbeats don't occur at regular intervals. However, a conclusive indication of AF is the absence of P waves on an electrocardiogram (ECG), which are normally present when there is a coordinated atrial contraction at the beginning of each heart beat. Risk increases with age, with 8% of people over 80 having AF.

In AF, the normal electrical impulses that are generated by the sinoatrial node are overwhelmed by disorganized electrical impulses that originate in the atria and pulmonary veins, leading to conduction of irregular impulses to the ventricles that generate the heartbeat. The result is an irregular heartbeat which may occur in episodes lasting from minutes to weeks, or it could occur all the time for years. The natural tendency of AF is to become a chronic condition. Chronic AF leads to a small increase in the risk of death.

Atrial fibrillation is often asymptomatic, and is not in itself generally life-threatening, but may result in palpitations, fainting, chest pain, or congestive heart failure. People with AF usually have a significantly increased risk of stroke (up to 7 times that of the general population). Stroke risk increases during AF because blood may pool and form clots in the poorly contracting atria and especially in the left atrial appendage (LAA). The level of increased risk of stroke depends on the number of additional risk factors. If a person with AF has none, the risk of stroke is similar to that of the general population. However, many people with AF do have additional risk factors and AF is a leading cause of stroke.

Atrial fibrillation may be treated with medications which either slow the heart rate or revert the heart rhythm back to normal. Synchronized electrical cardioversion may also be used to convert AF to a normal heart rhythm. Surgical and catheter-based therapies may also be used to prevent recurrence of AF in certain individuals. People with AF are often given anticoagulants such as warfarin to protect them from stroke.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA