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Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Myths and Facts


Myth: Only older people develop atrial fibrillation.

Fact: "It can occur in anyone at any age," Tomaselli says. "But it is more likely the older we get." Wu says that many with AFib are diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 65.

Myth: You would know if you had atrial fibrillation.

Fact: About 15% of AFib patients have no symptoms before diagnosis, according to Wu: "A patient might come in for a routine physical and their doctor notices there is an irregularity." Other patients might not realize they have AFib, but "they know something is not quite right," Tomaselli says. "For example, if their tolerance for exercise has changed." If something feels off, see your doctor.

Myth: People with sleep apnea always have atrial fibrillation.

Fact: Many people have sleep apnea but don't have atrial fibrillation, according to Tomaselli. For some people, sleep apnea triggers AFib. In people with both conditions, treating both the sleep apnea and AFib is recommended.

Myth: The biggest AFib risk is heart attack.

Fact: This is not true. The most feared complication is stroke.

Your chance of having a stroke is five times higher if you have AFib than if you have no history of it. So it's important for people with AFib to take their medications correctly. These drugs lower the chance of blood clots occurring in the chambers of the heart and traveling to the brain, which lowers the chance of stroke. Other treatments control the rate at which your heart beats.

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Reviewed on November 04, 2013

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