Brand SpotlightYour Healthy Family


Your Healthy Family: What is Atrial Fibrillation and how can you detect it?

Posted at 9:37 AM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 12:54:47-04

NAPLES, Fla. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 12 million people in the United States will have Atrial Fibrillation in the year 2030. Atrial Fibrillation, or A-Fib, is an irregular heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in your heart.

“In Atrial Fibrillation, the heart, instead of beating in a normal rhythm, every cell starts beating on its own, so it just starts quivering," Dr. Dinesh Sharma, an Electrophysiologist with the NCH Heart Institute, said.

Dr. Sharma said around 50 percent of patients can feel Atrial Fibrillation.

“Symptoms could be heart flutter, like feeling palpitations, heart skipping beats. But the common symptom is they just feel weak and fatigued, they just have less energy," Dr. Sharma said.

He said some patients feel chest pains if their heart is beating too fast.

"But there are a significant amount of patients who have no symptoms at all," Dr. Sharma said.

He said that's concerning because when the heart isn't beating right, blood flow is sluggish and can form tiny blood clots.

"Those clots can go into circulation and increase the risk of stroke. And around 20 to 30 percent of strokes happen because of Atrial Fibrillation, which the patient did not know about because they did not have any symptoms," he said.

That's why it's so important to diagnose patients with Atrial Fibrillation before something catastrophic. Dr. Sharma said new studies out of Sweden show if patients use their wearable device, like an Apple Watch, to check their EKG, they may be able to detect A-Fib. An EKG measures the electrical signals in the heart.

"If you just do an EKG twice a day for few weeks, then we may be able to pick up Atrial Fibrillation in high risk patients," Dr. Sharma said.

He said high-risk patients are people 75 and older. Dr. Sharma said in one study, without even knowing it, around 5 percent of patients who tracked their EKG on a wearable device had A-Fib.