Atrial Fibrillation & Arrhythmias Oakville

Atrial Fibrillation & Arrhythmias

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation, which is often called AFib, is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that originates from the upper chambers of the heart (atria). Atrial fibrillation is when a rapid, chaotic and erratic series of electrical impulses supersedes the normal heart rhythm, causing the upper chambers of the heart to “Fibrillate”. This leads to oxygen rich blood moving less efficiently through the heart, from the upper chambers (atria) to the lower chambers (ventricle) and out of the heart to the rest of the body. Moreover, this may lead to blood clots within the upper chambers of the heart, that can be sent inadvertently to the brain or various other organs of the body, leading to a stroke or other adverse outcomes. It is the most common type of arrhythmia, and may sometimes occur with its sister rhythm, atrial flutter.

heart waves
graphic of heart with a stethoscope around it

What causes Atrial Fibrillation?

The most common causes of atrial fibrillation are coronary artery disease or uncontrolled hypertension. Other causes include sleep apnea, or excessive alcohol consumption (“Holiday Heart”).  But sometimes there is a genetic predisposition to atrial fibrillation, as atrial fibrillation typically can be seen in multiple family members. It is more prevalent with aging, and in some people there is no identifiable cause. Fortunately, ongoing cardiovascular research is continually investigating this field of expertise and hopefully will shed new light in the future. 

What are the symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?

Unfortunately, some people do not experience any symptoms, and atrial fibrillation is only diagnosed at the time of an adverse outcome, such as stroke.  Others will experience an irregular heart beat or palpitations, as well as feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or fatigued. Symptoms of dyspnea, chest pain and feeling like you are going to pass out are also common.  

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Frequently Asked Questions

There are two methods to do so. Your radial pulse is located on the thumb-side of your inner wrist. If you palpate this pulse, you can feel for an irregular sensation, which may indicate an arrhythmia such as atrial fibrillation. However in this day in age, there are various technologies such as smart-watches and specific blood pressure monitors, that will detect atrial fibrillation for you! 

If you feel you have an arrhythmia such as atrial fibrillation, please speak to your primary care physician regarding a referral to C³, as we have more sophisticated testing modalities in our office to assess for atrial fibrillation, and provide the care you need to mitigate your stroke risk.

Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke if unrecognized or untreated.  If left untreated for a period of time, atrial fibrillation can also lead to heart failure, whereby the contraction of the heart muscle is reduced, which can be life threatening. 

Still have a question about atrial fibrillation & arrhythmias? Speak to your doctor about a referral to the Chahal Cardiovascular Centre for a cardiovascular consultation.