Atrial Fibrillation

What is AFib?

AFib is when your heart flutters, or beats unevenly. A normal heart beat starts in the upper right chamber of the heart. An electrical signal starts the heart beat at the SA node. The beat travels down through the heart from there. With AFib, signals come from different places in the heart. It’s kind of like a short circuit. It makes your heart beat irregularly. Your heart may beat faster, too.

Why is AFib a problem?

AFib can lead to a stroke or heart failure.

Tests for AFib

  • Monitor & Echo Tests EKG
  • Holter or Event Monitor
  • Echo (Echocardiogram)
  • Blood Tests
  • Stress Tests

What does AFib feel like?

Some people do not feel anything or have any problems with AFib. But problems can include:

  1. feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  2. uneven, fluttering, or racing heart beat (palpitations)
  3. feeling weak or tired
  4. chest discomfort or tightness
  5. feeling short of breath
  6. sudden weight gain (examples: 2-3 pounds overnight or 3-5 pounds in a week)

What you can do if you have AFib

  1. Get regular check-ups. Learn about medicines and other treatments.
  2. Check your pulse daily.
  3. Be good to your body.

How to check your pulse

Check your heart beat or pulse, every day. Also, be sure to check it when you have any of these symptoms:

  • more shortness of breath than usual
  • feeling lightheaded or weak
  • fast or racing heart beat

How to check your pulse:

  1. Place the pads of 2 or 3 fingers on the inside of your wrist, just below your thumb.
  2. Press down until you feel your pulse.
  3. Be patient—it takes practice!

Look for:

  • Is your pulse regular?
  • How many beats do you have in a minute?

Download & print information about AFib

This booklet is for you if you have AFib, or if you are at risk for AFib. It will help you understand:

  • What AFib is
  • Why AFib is a problem
  • Test for AFib
  • Types of AFib
  • What you can do
  • How to check your pulse
  • How to live a full life with AFib
  • How to make a plan when living with AFib


Disclaimer: This and other PCNA educational materials are for information purposes only and are not intended to replace medical advice or diagnose or treat health problems. Health-related decisions should be made in partnership with a healthcare provider. It is the reader's responsibility to seek out the most current, accurate information.