Similar to the way our skin changes as we get older, the tissues of the heart change too. As they age, electrical conduction in the cells within the the top 2 chambers of the heart (the atria) can malfunction causing an irregular heartbeat (Atrial Fibrillation). This causes the heart to be much less efficient and heart function is reduced.
Atrial Fibrillation can cause rapid, irregular palpitations, breathlessness, chest pain, light-headedness and tiredness. However, in about a quarter of patients it causes no symptoms at all, and yet the risk of stroke is the same as if symptoms are present. Atrial Fibrillation is frequently seen in patients with high blood pressure or if other cardiac problems are present like heart attacks, valve disease or heart muscle diseases (cardiomyopathies).
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or are worried about your heart health, contact a medical professional immediately.
Atrial Fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder in the Western World and is estimated to affect more than 1 million people in the UK. AF is the 2nd commonest cause of stroke in the UK and increases the risk an overall 5 times compared to a patient without AF and strokes due to AF are often more severe than other types.
The chaotic electrical activity in the atria caused by AF causes blood to stagnate inside them which can then cause a clot to form inside the heart. Once clots form, they can dislodge and travel through the heart and circulate to the brain, where they result in brain damage (a stroke).