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What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disturbance encountered by doctors. NHS 2011 figures suggest AF affects in excess of one million people across the UK, although this is considered to be an under estimation due to delayed detection and diagnosis.

It can affect adults of any age, but it is more common as people get older. In the over 65 year old age group, it affects about 10% of people. Atrial fibrillation is not a life-threatening heart rhythm problem, but it can be troublesome and often requires treatment.

Atrial fibrillation or AF occurs when chaotic electrical activity develops in the upper chambers or atria, and completely takes over from the sinus node. As a result, the atria no longer beat in an organised way, and pump less efficiently. The AV node will stop some of these very rapid impulses from travelling to the ventricles, but the ventricles will still beat irregularly and possibly rapidly.

 

Why you need protection against AF-related stroke if you have atrial fibrillation

Your heartbeat is the most fundamental rhythm in your life, signalling the regular pumping of your heart as it propels blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. We take the regular beating completely for granted, never giving it a second thought until the elegant control process goes wrong, when the consequences can be the devastating disability, loss of independence and even death caused by AF-related stroke.
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VIDEO: Eileen shares her experiences with AF and the impact of AF-related stroke on her Mum

Hear Bob’s experiences of having undetected AF, and learn why ‘Knowing Your Pulse’ is so important.

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AF Association has launched an online petition which calls for an early review of the UK National Screening Committee’s (NSC) policy on screening for AF in the over 65s. Please sign our petition and together we can make a difference and help to prevent suffering. Read more.