Common myths about atrial fibrillation

Sep 1, 2018, 19:25 PM by By Dr. Rafic F. Berbarie

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 6 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation (or AFib), an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating of the upper chambers of the heart. The following are common myths associated with AFib:

AFib_healthtipsMyth: I am too young to get atrial fibrillation. 

Fact: While atrial fibrillation does increase in prevalence as we age, it is a condition that can happen at any age and at any time. 

Myth: Atrial fibrillation can’t be treated. 

Fact: While it is true that atrial fibrillation cannot be cured, there are many treatment options for this arrhythmia, including a variety of medications, cardioversions (electrical shocks to the heart) and invasive cardiac procedures called ablations. 

Myth: Having atrial fibrillation means I need a pacemaker and/or heart surgery. 

Fact: Pacemakers and invasive procedures (called ablations) are options to treat atrial fibrillation. However, a variety of medications can control symptoms and the atrial fibrillation so that invasive procedures might not be necessary. 

Myth: I will not be able to live a normal, active life with atrial fibrillation. 

Fact: The great majority of atrial fibrillation patients are able to live a normal life through various treatment options. 

Myth: I had heart palpitations the other day, and so this must mean I have atrial fibrillation. 

Fact: Palpitations—or fast, irregular heartbeats—are a very non-specific symptom. Palpitations can be due to atrial fibrillation but can also be caused by a variety of other arrhythmias, including different types of tachycardia and premature beats. Your doctor may want to order testing to determine the exact cause of the palpitations. 

Myth: Atrial fibrillation only causes heart complications. 

Fact: The main non-cardiac risk with having atrial fibrillation is a stroke. Blood clots can form in the heart when you are in atrial fibrillation and these can go to the brain and cause strokes.