What Does aFib Feel Like?

What does afib feel like?

If you have aFib, you could have a sensation of a pounding heart, and your heart will feel like it is racing.

Common symptoms of atrial fibrillation:

  • Drops in blood pressure
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm that comes from the heart's top left chamber. It can cause rapid heart rhythm and can cause the heart to beat from 300 to 600 times a minute, which is not a regular or coordinated heartbeat. The heart beats typically between 60 to 100 times a minute.

Atrial fibrillation is associated with frequent hospitalizations. There's a one in five chance of being hospitalized due to atrial fibrillation every year.

Please note, if you have chest pain, call 911. You could be having a heart attack and may need emergency medical help.

Joshua RutlandJoshua Rutland, MD, a cardiologist specializing in heart arrhythmias at CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic in Tyler, provided the following information.

heart right and left atrium

Heart and aFib

Although it is not completely known why aFib occurs, understanding anatomy helps you understand how the heart functions during aFib.

The heart has two upper chambers consisting of the right atrium and left atrium. The bottom chambers consist of the right ventricle and left ventricle.

The bottom heart chambers are big, thick, and muscular and serve as the main pumping chamber for the heart and all the veins in the body, including the legs and head. This chamber brings all of the blood back into the top right atrium to flow back through a valve in the bottom right chamber.

The bottom right chamber is the main pump that pumps blood to the entire body. The blood flow from the bottom right chamber will go to the lungs, get some oxygen, come back to the top left atrium, and flow through another valve in the bottom left.

The heart's upper chambers beat chaotically during atrial fibrillation causing the lower heart chambers to beat out of rhythm.

Atrial Fibrillation Complications


Atrial fibrillation can cause a risk for stroke because the heart muscles are not relaxing as they should typically because they're getting too many electrical signals causing a rapid heartbeat.

There's a place inside the heart called the left atrial appendage closure, which tends to get blood stuck inside it during atrial fibrillation.

The blood stays inside the left atrial appendage closure and causes a big clot. The clot can tend to get knocked loose, and when it does, it goes across the right valve to the right aorta, causing a stroke.


Atrial fibrillation can cause electrical signals within the heart to beat fast for several hours. This causes the heart muscle to do a lot more work.

Luckily the heart muscle is powerful and can last for hours, going very fast. But unfortunately, the heart muscle will weaken if left unchecked, and the fast heartbeat continues.

About 20 percent of people who develop atrial fibrillation develop heart failure.


There is a significant association with risks for dementia related to atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation can damage the brain, affecting memory, language skills, and concentration.

This issue can affect everyday life, and the condition can be either mild or severe depending on symptoms.

Studies have shown that adults with atrial fibrillation are likelier to have cognitive declines than those not dealing with dementia.

Atrial Fibrillation Treatment

Blood thinners, medication, and ablation are used to treat atrial fibrillation.

Blood Thinner

Blood thinners are medicines that prevent blood clots from forming. Here are the following blood thinner medications for atrial fibrillation.

  • Novel oral anticoagulants
  • Dabigatran Rivaroxaban
  • Apixaban
  • Edoxaban
  • Betrixaban

Risk Factors to note are age, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, artery disease, and coronary artery disease from a prior stroke.

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Atrial Fibrillation Medication

There are several medications to treat atrial fibrillation

  • Metoprolol
  • Carvedilol
  • Dill
  • Verapamil
  • Calcium Channel blockers

Heart Rhythm Medication

Recent clinical trials now strongly advocate for rhythm control to prevent complications, preventing risks for things like heart failure, hospitalization, and dementia.

There are two ways that we can control the heart rhythm. First, medication to control heart rhythm is an effective way to treat atrial fibrillation.

  • Antiarrhythmic medications
  • Flecainide
  • Core amiodarone
  • Digoxin
  • Sotalol


The second method is ablation, an atrial fibrillation procedure to help the heart keep a normal heart rhythm.

The operation consists of a small burn or freeze to cause scarring inside the heart to help break up electrical signals that cause irregular heartbeat.

It has been shown through multiple clinical trials to be much more effective at treating atrial fibrillation and reducing the amount of atrial fibrillation that people have.

In addition, ablation has a high success rate and has shown to be effective after a single procedure.

What should you do if you think you have a heart condition?

First, if you have chest pain and think you could be having a heart attack, call 911 or emergency medical help.

If you suspect you could have heart disease, take the necessary steps to detect it early. Early detection is critical. Talk to your primary care provider to address concerns about your heart.

You can also take the CHRISTUS heart assessment to learn more about your heart health.

Heart Health Assessment

Take a health assessment to measure your heart health. The CHRISTUS Health heart assessment measures your risk of heart disease by asking simple questions.

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