Cardiovascular Services

Atrial Fibrillation | AFib

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a type of heart arrhythmia that causes the heart to move (fibrillate) too rapidly and irregularly. Atrial fibrillation occurs in the heart’s two upper chambers called the atria. AFib can lead to serious cardiovascular complications, including heart failure and stroke. If you think you might have AFib, talk to your doctor about evaluation and treatment.

Learn more about AFib

What are AFib symptoms?

Some people with atrial fibrillation may have no symptoms while others may experience:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hard time exercising
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Stroke

Diagnosing atrial fibrillation

Your provider will do a complete medical evaluation to diagnose atrial fibrillation. He/she will ask about your medical history and complete a physical exam.Diagnostic tests may be ordered, including:

  • Blood tests

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)

  • Holter monitor or event monitor

  • Stress test

  • Echocardiogram

  • Chest X-ray

Treating atrial fibrillation

Treatment for AFib includes preventing blood clots from forming and restoring a normal heartbeat. Your doctor also will want to treat any conditions that can cause or raise the risk of atrial fibrillation. Treatment can include:

  • Lifestyle changes

  • Medication

  • Medical procedures

Learn more.

Atrial fibrillation complications

Atrial fibrillation can lead to stroke, heart failure and other complications.

  • Stroke: A blood clot can form in the atria and travel to the brain, causing a stroke.

  • Blood clots: Clots can travel to other parts of the body, causing poor blood flow to a limb, for example.

  • Heart failure: The heart may not supply enough blood to the lungs and body, leading to a buildup of fluid in parts of the body and to heart failure.

Having a healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk of heart disease and may prevent atrial fibrillation. This includes:

  • Healthy, low-fat, low-sugar diet with a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables
  • Quitting tobacco
  • Exercise and physical activity
  • Having a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Taking medication as prescribed

Next Steps for Patients

While some patients are candidates for self-referral to our cardiovascular specialists, we recommend that you ask your primary care physician for help with the process.

Provider Referrals

If you are a provider who would like to refer a patient for MaineHealth cardiovascular medicine services, please review our clinical guidelines and call 207-885-9905.