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Atrial Fibrillation (also known as AF) is the most common type of heart arrhythmia. In AF the electrical signals in the chambers of your heart become chaotic and disorganised, making them contract very rapidly and in an irregular way. This is known as fibrillation.
This fast, irregular rhythm prevents the heart from pumping effectively and the circulation of blood can be impaired.
Some types of AF can be treated by a process called cardioversion, a procedure which uses a controlled electric shock to you heart, from a machine called a defibrillator, to restore your normal heart rhythm.
Some people have no symptoms and AF is only discovered when a nurse or doctor feels your pulse and finds it to be fast and irregular.
When the heart beats fast and in an irregular way it cannot work efficiently, and the following symptoms may occur:
If you notice a sudden change in your heartbeat and have chest pain, you should always seek urgent medical advice.
For some people, the cause of AF is unknown. However sometimes AF develops along with other medical conditions such as:
There are a variety of situations that can trigger an episode of, or contribute to, AF:
Learning to recognise your individual trigger factors and reducing, or avoiding, them can sometimes help to minimise your symptoms of AF. This could mean some significant changes to your way of living and changing your daily habits, such as stopping smoking or cutting out alcohol.
This can be a difficult transition and telling your loved ones that you’re undertaking it means that they can support you and even get involved in making healthier choices. Make sure that you get in the habits of drinking your daily recommended amount of water, eating healthily and staying active wherever possible.
Visit our Living with a Heart Condition section for more information about how to manage your condition at home, how to stay well and reduce your risk of future heart conditions.
Call our Advice Line for free on 0808 801 0899 or text NURSE to 66777 if you’d like information on support groups, AF or even just a trained listening ear. We’re here to support you and help you to build a healthier life.
You can make sure people with chest, heart or stroke in conditions Scotland get the support they need after returning home from hospital.
If you – or someone you know – needs help right now, we’re here for you.
Read our Essential Guides for more information.
Download our booklet on Understanding Atrial Fibrillation to learn more about your condition and the topics discussed on this page.
View this page
Download Your Heart Toolkit for advice and information about living with a heart condition.
Visit our Services page to find out more about the support that’s available after a heart attack.