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  • Writer's pictureEli Rosenberg

The Orchestra of the Heart: How Atrial Fibrillation Disrupts the Rhythm

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart condition where the heart beats irregularly and faster than normal. To understand AFib, we must first understand how the heart works normally. Every second, a group of cells, called the sinus node, produces an electrical impulse that spreads throughout the top chambers of the heart. The the right atrium and left atrium are the upper chambers of the heart and are responsible for receiving blood from the body (and lungs) and pumping it into the ventricles. The electrical impulse from the sinus node causes the atria to contract, squeezing the blood into the right ventricle and left ventricle. The ventricles are the lower chambers of the heart and are responsible for pumping blood out to the body and lungs.


In a healthy heart, the atria and ventricles work together in a coordinated way, like all the musicians in an orchestra playing a beautiful piece of music together. But in atrial fibrillation, the electrical signals in the atria become disordered and chaotic, causing the atria to quiver or irregularly rather than contract rhythmically. This is like all the musicians of the orchestra playing out of sync with one another, causing the music to sound like a chaotic mess. When the atria fibrillate, they can't effectively pump blood into the ventricles, which can lead to a number of symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue and lightheadedness. Treatment for atrial fibrillation can include medication to control the heart's rhythm and rate, as well as procedures like cardioversion or ablation to restore the heart's normal rhythm, just like how a conductor might work with the orchestra to get everyone back in sync and playing together harmoniously.


In addition, AFib is a leading cause of stroke. In AFib, the atria fail to contract forcefully enough to propel blood, resulting in the pooling of blood in the atria. This increases the likelihood of blood clot formation along the heart's walls. These clots can dislodge and travel to the brain, causing a stroke. To mitigate this risk, people with AFib require anticoagulation therapy to prevent blood clots from forming. Long-term oral anticoagulation is recommended for most individuals with AFib to lower their chances of experiencing stroke or other embolic events. This therapy is crucial because people with AFib are at a higher risk of developing blood clots, which can lead to serious health complications.


In summary, atrial fibrillation is a heart condition that disrupts the normal coordinated rhythm of the heart's chambers, leading to a number of symptoms and an increased risk of stroke. While treatments such as medication and procedures like cardioversion and ablation can help restore the heart's rhythm, anticoagulation therapy is a crucial component of managing AFib to prevent the formation of blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke. By working closely with a healthcare provider, individuals with AFib can receive effective treatment and improve their quality of life.

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