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Atrial Fibrillation - what you need to know

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of arrhythmia, or irregular heart beat, putting people at risk of blood clots, stroke and heart failure. By 2030, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 12.1 million people in the US will have AFib. Sequoia Heart and Vascular Institute is a leader in providing advanced AFib treatment options. Make your heart a priority today. Call (650) 649-4912 to learn more about our cardiac services or click here to search our directory of cardiologists.

Watch our six-part video series below to learn more about AFib.

What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)?

Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition in which the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly and too fast because they receive extra, "abnormal" electrical signals. This causes the atria to quiver (fibrillate), affecting the heart's ability to pump blood to the body. As a result, your brain and other organs may not be getting the full blood supply they need.

AFib becomes more challenging to treat over time. It can lead to irreversible heart damage or the formation of blood clots inside the heart, which in turn may lead to a stroke. AFib causes about 1 in 7 strokes.


Some people are asymptomatic, or don’t experience any symptoms of AFib, while others may experience one or more of the following: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Exercise intolerance

Causes and Risk Factors

Your doctor may not be able to pinpoint just one cause of AFib, but there are certain risk factors that increase your odds of developing it. These include:

  • High blood pressure 
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea 
  • Lung problems/disease (asthma)  
  • Increased age
  • Obesity


AFib can be detected through an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) that records electrical signals generated by the heart. A Holter monitor may also be worn for one or more days to detect AFib, and more recently, wearable technology such as SmartWatches may also help detect when someone is in AFib.


Treatment for AFib can vary based on how long someone has had it, their symptoms, and the underlying cause of the issue. Treatment options may include medications, therapies, or minimally invasive catheter ablation procedures.

What is a Hybrid Atrial Fibrillation Ablation?

Hybrid ablation is an advanced treatment option for patients with hard-to-treat AFib that combines both surgical and catheter-based techniques performed by a cardiothoracic surgeon and electrophysiologist.

Learn More

To learn more about our cardiac services please call (650) 649-4912 or click here to search our directory of cardiologists.