Atrial fibrillation affects millions of people, and the number is rising. Men are more likely than women to have the condition. In the United States, AFib is more common among Whites than African Americans or Hispanic Americans.
The risk of AFib increases as you age. This is mostly because your risk for heart disease and other conditions that can cause AFib also increases as you age. However, about half of the people who have AFib are younger than 75.
AFib is uncommon in children.
Major Risk Factors
AFib is more common in people who have:
- high blood pressure
- coronary heart disease (CHD)
- heart failure
- rheumatic heart disease
- structural heart defects, such as mitral valve prolapse
- pericarditis: a condition in which the membrane, or sac, around your heart is inflamed
- some congenital heart defects
- sick sinus syndrome (a condition in which the heart's electrical signals don't fire properly and the heart rate slows down; sometimes the heart will switch back and forth between a slow rate and a fast rate)
AFib also is more common in people who are having heart attacks or who have just had surgery.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation usually causes the heart's lower chambers, the ventricles, to contract faster than normal.
When this happens, the ventricles can't completely fill with blood. Thus, they may not be able to pump enough blood to the lungs and body. This can lead to signs and symptoms, such as:
- palpitations (feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too hard or fast)
- shortness of breath
- weakness or problems while exercising
- chest pain
- dizziness or fainting
- fatigue (tiredness)