Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month

By: Alere Staff
Publication Date: Sun, 09/01/2013

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disturbance.1 It is a serious, but very treatable heart condition. Many people have Atrial Fibrillation (called AFib or AF) but don’t even realize it. If left untreated, the effects of AFib can be life threatening. To help improve public education and awareness, Congress passed two resolutions beginning in 2009, designating September as Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month. The purpose is to educate more people about this condition and to help prevent the potentially devastating consequences if left unrecognized and untreated.

In AFib, there is a problem with the electrical system in the atria causing the heart to pump irregularly. This problem can cause the top chambers to quiver or jiggle, which is described as an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. When the heart doesn’t pump normally, it causes blood to sit in the top chambers of the heart longer than it should. Blood sitting can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.2

Symptoms of AFib

Sometimes people with AFib have no symptoms and may be only found with a physical exam. According to the American Heart Association, some symptoms of AFib include:

  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Fluttering or “thumping” in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath and anxiety
  • Weakness
  • Faintness or confusion
  • Fatigue when exercising
  • Sweating

Treatment and Prevention of AFib

AFib can be treated with medication to regulate the heart beat or other treatments to correct it. A common anticoagulation medication to lower stroke risk is warfarin (brand name Coumadin® medication). Keeping your INR in therapeutic range is an important step to lower your stroke risk. Warfarin requires regular but easy blood monitoring.3 A simple fingerstick will help you and your doctor manage your warfarin and help protect you against dangerous blood clots.

  1. American Heart Association. What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)? http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/AboutArrhythmia/What-is-Atrial-Fibrillation-AFib-or-AF_UCM_423748_Article.jsp. May 30, 2012. Accessed August 12, 2013.
  2. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. What Is Atrial Fibrillation? http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/af/July 01, 2011. Accessed August 12, 2013.
  3. Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. Medication Guide for Coumadin Tablets and Coumadin for Injection (Package Insert). 2010. Princeton, NJ: Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.