Atrial Fibrillation

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Atrial fibrillation, also called AFib, is the most common irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

It can interfere with daily life, and can lead to a stroke or heart failure. It is also treatable, thanks to our team’s expertise and range of options.

In healthy hearts, the electrical trigger which contracts the heart is transmitted in a smooth, coordinated manner from the upper chambers to the lower. But in atrial fibrillation, the signal travels chaotically, causing the heart to quiver and either strain to pump or stop.

Learn more about Atrial Fibrillation and how it's treated at the University of Maryland Medical Center:

What causes atrial fibrillation?

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Atrial fibrillation becomes more common with age — more than 10 percent of those older than 80 have the condition. Sometimes doctors cannot determine the reason it appeared. But other causes are known, as well as factors that can increase your risk:

  • Heart conditions: Other heart conditions can damage the heart’s electrical system, including high blood pressure or coronary artery disease. A third of patients with a mitral valve problem also have atrial fibrillation. Learn more about mitral valve repair.
  • Athletics: Atrial fibrillation is common in athletes and is sometimes triggered by another arrhythmia called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) that causes fast heartbeats. Learn more about paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), one type of SVT. 
  • Heavy drinking: Atrial fibrillation risk is increased by binge drinking (five drinks in two hours for men, or four drinks during that time for women).
  • Family history: Your likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation is higher if a relative receives a diagnosis.
  • Other conditions: Chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma and thyroid problems can increase your risk. Sleep apnea, which strains the heart, also appears to have a connection.