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What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Heart in Atrial Fibrillation

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Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF) is characterized by an irregular and often fast heart rhythm that results in uncoordinated contraction of the top 2 chambers of the heart (ie, atria).4

In a healthy individual, the sinoatrial node generates approximately 60–100 beats per minute when at rest3,8 In a patient with AF at rest, the atria generate about 600 impulses per minute, resulting in 80–120 beats per minute.5,6,7

It occurs when there is a fault in the electrical activity of the heart, causing the heart to beat in an irregular and uncoordinated fashion.5,6,7 AF is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia affecting 1 in 4 people over 40 during their lifetime. With over 11 million people across Europe affected by AF and numbers predicted to rise by 70% by 20302, it is becoming of one of our most significant health challenges.1
Find out more on the different types of Atrial Fibrillation.

About Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia. AF affects over 11 million people across Europe with a predicated increase in prevalence by up to 70% by 2030.1,2

This surge in cases of AF can be attributed to both our ageing population and the rise in risk factors for developing AF, notably hypertension and diabetes.3

This arrhythmia remains one of the major causes of stroke, heart failure, sudden death and cardiovascular morbidity and is becoming one of our most significant health challenges.3

afib

Irregular heart rhythm

AF is characterized by an irregular and often fast heart rhythm that results in uncoordinated contraction of the top 2 chambers of the heart(ie, atria).4
It occurs when there is a fault in the electrical activity of the heart, causing the heart to beat in an irregular and uncoordinated fashion.5,6,7

The sinoatrial node, also known as the ‘sinus node’, transmits regular electrical signals across the atria and ventricles via the atrioventricular node, which allows for the heart to contract regularly. The sinus node controls the rate at which the heart beats and can change the heart rate depending on the requirements of the body.7,8,9 Among individuals with AF, the 'normal' regular electrical signal from the sinus node is no longer transmitted properly. Instead of just the sinoatrial node firing, other parts of the atria begin to send electrical signals. However, these signals are not as regular or as coordinated as the signals from the sinoatrial node, which leads to the atria not contracting properly and irregular beating of the ventricles. Depending on how many electrical impulses reach the ventricles, the heartbeat could be slow or fast, but it tends to be very fast in AF. 

afib heart rhythm

Abnormal heart rhythm

In a healthy individual, the sinoatrial node generates approximately 60–100 beats per minute when at rest3,8 In a patient with AF at rest, the atria generate about 600 impulses per minute, resulting in 80–120 beats per minute.5,6,7

atrial fibrillation heart

References

1. Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network (2016) Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 (GBD 2016) Results. Seattle, United States: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), 2017. Accessed 2018-04-20. Available from http://ghdx.healthdata.org/gbd-results-tool. 2. Zoni-Berisso M, Lercari F, Carazza T, Domenicucci S (2014) Epidemiology of atrial fibrillation: European perspective. Clin Epidemiol 6 213-220. 3. Kirchhof P, Benussi S, Kotecha D, Ahlsson A, Atar D et al. (2016) 2016 ESC Guidelines for the management of atrial fibrillation developed in collaboration with EACTS. Eur Heart J 37 (38): 2893-2962. 4. Iaizzo PA (2015). Handbook of Cardiac Anatomy, Physiology, and DeviceS. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC: Switzerland. 5. European Society of Cardiology, www.escardio.org. 6. European Heart Rhythm Association, www.escardio.org/Sub-specialty-communities/European-Heart-Rhythm-Association-(EHRA). 7. AFibmatters website, http://www.AFibmatters.org/About-atrial-fibrillation. 8. Mayo clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/heart-rate/faq-20057979. 9. Lloyd-Jones DM, Wang TJ, Leip EP, Larson MG, Levy D et al. (2004) Lifetime risk for development of atrial fibrillation: the Framingham Heart Study. Circulation 110 (9): 1042-1046.

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