6 Symptoms that Could Signal an Irregular Heartbeat

January 27, 2020
a fib blog

The normal resting heart beats between 60 to 100 times per minute. But when someone develops a heart rhythm problem, the heart beats irregularly, which could be too fast or too slow.

Atrial fibrillation, also called A-fib, is the most common type of heart rhythm disorder, and it is important to treat to prevent increased risk of stroke.

Someone suffering from A-fib may have symptoms or may not notice anything is wrong, said Meena Rao, MD, with NHRMC Physician Group - Cape Fear Heart Associates. Dr. Rao sees patients in Cape Fear Heart’s Atrial Fibrillation Clinic, which provides a multidisciplinary approach to offer education and improve access to treatments.

Below are some common questions about A-fib.

What is atrial fibrillation?

A-fib is an irregular heart rhythm which can be associated with slow and fast heart rates, Dr. Rao said. The common disorder affects several million people in the United States, though the number is expected to increase as the population ages, according to the CDC.

What are the symptoms? 

Some people feel A-fib symptoms, and some do not. Those who notice symptoms may feel:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Palpitations or heart racing
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath with exertion
  • Chest pain

It is important to regularly see a primary care provider to help monitor your health and look for any changes. Specific to your heart, your care provider will typically take your pulse to determine your heart rate as part of an annual physical exam.

What are the risk factors?

Anyone can get it, but risk increases with age, Dr. Rao said. Risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease, valve disease or heart failure
  • Rheumatic heart disease or pericarditis
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Lung or kidney disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Family history of atrial fibrillation
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol use
  • Smoking

Why is it important to get treatment?

Treatment is vital to address the increased risk of stroke. A-fib causes about 1 in 7 strokes, according to the CDC, and those strokes can be worse than strokes triggered by another cause. (A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off.)

“We have medications available for patients with atrial fibrillation to decrease risk of stroke, therefore it is important to know if you have atrial fibrillation and get on the appropriate therapy,” Dr. Rao said.

Treating A-fib can also help manage symptoms, which can be bad. “If you feel your atrial fibrillation, therapies are available to minimize the amount of atrial fibrillation and improve quality of life,” Dr. Rao added.

How is it treated?

“We use medications and procedures to decrease stroke risk and treat atrial fibrillation when appropriate,” Dr. Rao said. A provider will develop a specific treatment plan for each patient. It is important that patients continue to be evaluated to ensure treatment is working.

For more information on heart care available at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, visit www.nhrmc.org/heart.

Categories: Your Health
Topics: Heart Health
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