What is AFib?
Normally, the heart pumps blood to the rest of the body in a strong, steady rhythm. During each heartbeat, the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) contract, followed by the two lower chambers (ventricles). When timed perfectly, these actions allow for an efficient pump. The timing of the contractions is directed by the heart’s electrical system. The sinus node or sinoatrial (SA) node, found in the right atrium, generates the electrical spark which travels through the upper atria, pauses at the atrioventricular (AV) node and moves along a standard path within the ventricles. This process makes the heart contract and pump blood to the rest of the body. When someone suffers from AFib, a problem with the heart's electrical system causes the atria to quiver, or fibrillate, causing a very fast, chaotic rhythm in the atria. The resulting rapid, irregular heartbeat is dangerous because if not given proper treatment, the heartbeat isn't strong and steady, and blood can collect, or pool, in the atria where it is more likely to form clots. These clots can travel to the brain, block blood flow, and cause a stroke. AFib can also lead to heart failure.