You can check to see if you have AFib. Here’s how.
Most Americans are unaware of the potentially life-threatening link between the heart condition atrial fibrillation (AFib) and stroke. According to the American Heart Association, people with AFib are five times more likely to have a stroke than the general population.
Here’s what you need to know about this common heart condition:
What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is the most common irregular heartbeat. It occurs when the upper chambers of the heart, known as the atrium, beat rapidly and irregularly.
This can lead to the formation of blood clots, which can enter the blood stream and block circulation to the brain and cause a stroke.
Wouldn’t my healthcare provider know if I had AFib?
Not necessarily. Some people have AFib all the time while others might have it only on occasion. Some people with AFib have symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness or light-headedness. Other people with AFib have no symptoms at all.
AFib can be detected by checking your pulse. Pulse checks can potentially lead to detection and treatment of AFib and could prevent many of the 80,000 AFib-related strokes that occur each year.
How do I check my pulse?
- Turn your left hand palm-side up, then place the first two fingers of your right hand on the outer edge of your left wrist just below where your wrist and thumb meet. Slide your fingers toward the center of your wrist.
- Press down until you feel your pulse, but don’t press too hard, or you won’t be able to feel it.
- Do not use your thumb.
- Begin counting pulsations and continue to count for one minute.
- Concentrate on whether the beats are evenly spaced or if they are uneven with missed beats, extra beats or beats that are too close together.
- Your pulse should feel strong and regular and have a steady beat or rhythm. If your pulse feels irregular, you may be in AFib.
What is a normal pulse rate?
A normal pulse rate is between 60 to 100 beats per minute and is strong and regular.
What if my pulse rate is low?
According to the American Stroke Association, a pulse rate under 60 beats per minute doesn't necessarily indicate a medical issue. Certain drugs, like beta blockers, lower pulse rate. Lower rates are also common for people who engage in a lot of physical activity, because their hearts don't have to work as hard to maintain rhythm.
What can I do?
If your pulse is irregular or if it is too fast or too slow, notify your healthcare provider. Treating AFib can reduce your risk of having a stroke.