Atrial fibrillation is a condition marked by an irregular heartbeat that can be up to three times faster than the normal heart rate. It also can result in poor blood flow to some parts of the body.
Although atrial fibrillation can’t be traced back to a single cause, the condition is more common in individuals suffering from chronic cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, cardiomyopathy and lung disease, as well as those recovering from heart surgery. The condition can also be congenital, the result of a birth defect.
During a normal heartbeat, a single electrical signal tells the heart to contract. However, in cases of atrial fibrillation many different signals are sent at the same time. This plethora of signals attempting to get through at once causes the heart to beat extremely fast, at a rate of 100 to 175 times per minute. The condition can be chronic, or occur only occasionally. Although the symptoms of atrial fibrillation come and go in some patients, the condition should be monitored, as chronic atrial fibrillation can weaken the heart, leaving sufferers more prone to heart attack and stroke.