Press your hand against your chest. Those little thumps you feel are your heart pumping, moving blood into and out of its chambers and through the rest of your body.
Normally, the top part of your heart (the atria) squeezes first, then the bottom part (the ventricles). The timing of these contractions is what moves the blood. But for more than 2 million Americans, the electrical signals that control this system are off-kilter. Instead of working together, the atria do their own thing. This fast, fluttering heartbeat, what doctors call arrhythmia, is atrial fibrillation, or AFib.
There are a lot of assumptions we make about our hearts. And for each myth, there is often some truth upon which it is founded.
Take heart attacks, for instance.
Most people imagine they would know when they are having a heart attack. It would be difficult not to recognize symptoms of "the big one" – sweating, soreness in the left arm, and sudden, disabling chest pain.
But that’s not always the case. Sometimes the signs are much more subtle or mimic other conditions.
"I have heard of instances...
More than annoying, it can be serious. Because your blood isn't moving well, you're at greater risk for heart failure. That's when your heart can't keep up with the needs of your body. Blood can also pool inside your heart and form clots. If one gets stuck in your brain, you can have a stroke.
Who Gets It?
Anyone can have AFib, but it's more common in people who are 60 or older.