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Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common abnormal heart rhythm. The electrical system of the heart sends predictable signals, spaced regularly, to tell the heart muscle to contract. The heart has two upper chambers called atria, and two lower ones called ventricles. In normal conditions each signal begins on the side of the atria and travels to the other parts of the heart.

AF occurs if rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the heart's two upper chambers called the atria to fibrillate (contract very fast and irregularly). Some of the signals do not reach the ventricles, causing them to continue pumping, rapidly and irregularly. This irregular rhythm can reduce the efficiency of the heart to pump blood through the body. The blood accumulating in the heart chamber can form clots which can break off, travel to different parts of the body and cause an ischemia (decreased blood flow to an area and consequently lack of oxygen and nutrients).

Symptoms

The symptoms can be more or less intensive depending on the heart function and the patient’s general state of health. They include:

  • Irregular or accelerated pulse or heartbeats
  • Palpitations or a sensation of pressure, chest pain
  • Dizziness, sensation of fainting
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Problems exercising

Prevention

If you have any of the risk factors, you should avoid all and everything that can bring on an episode, such as alcohol and caffeine. In addition, you should follow the doctor’s advice in order to control cardiac disease, high blood pressure and other disorders.

Gene or region studied

  • 4q25
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