The Nokia Digital Health business was acquired by Withings co-founder Eric Carreel. The Withings brand will return by the end of 2018. Learn more

Withings | AFib

About atrial fibrillation: symptoms, causes and diagnosis

Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is the most common form of irregular heart rhythm. This arrhythmia can lead to many complications such as blood clots or heart failure. 20-30% of all strokes are due to AFib (source)


Learn more about AFib symptoms, risk factors, and how you may be able to better manage this condition via early ECG detection.

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an anomaly of the heart’s electrical activity. Normally, the heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat based on electrical impulses to pump blood. These signals starts from the sinus node in the right atrium.


In atrial fibrillation, the electrical impulses are disorganized and scattered throughout both atria.


As a result, the heart beats too quickly and irregularly, blood is not pumped efficiently, which can lead to a decreased blood flow and oxygen throughout the body.

Heart - Atrial Fibrillation

The different types of AFib episodes

Cardiologists distinct 3 forms of AFib episodes that mainly differs on their duration and frequency:



TYPE 1

"Paroxysmal Afib"

In this first and sudden episode, AFib comes and goes, and stops on its own.



TYPE 2

"Persistent AFib"

In the second stage, AFib progresses. It lasts more than a week and can become permanent.



TYPE 3

"Permanent AFib"

Also called long-term persistent Afib, in the third and most severe stage, AFib progresses until the heart’s normal rhythm cannot be restored.

AFib and its symptoms

AFib tends to be asymptomatic. During its paroxysmal early stage, atrial fibrillation is more difficult to detect, because it might arise during short episodes that cannot be diagnosed. However, common symptoms include:

  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low blood pressure
  • Faintness
  • Fatigue or lack of energy

In most cases, people do not experience those symptoms, and AFib may remain untreated. Doctors might discover it when testing for other conditions.


According to the European Society of Cardiology, one in four people who are 40 years old or over are likely to develop AFib.

(source: escardio.org)

What are the risk factors for atrial fibrillation?

Many people develop AFib for unclear reasons, however, it is important to consider the following risk factors:


Advanced age

Atrial fibrillation affects up to two percent of the younger population of the United States, but rises to nine percent for those 65 years or older. (source: Circulation)

Hypertension

According to the European Society of Cardiology, people who already have high blood pressure are at higher risk for AFib.

Valvular heart diseases

Also called VHD, they affect how the heart valve function to regulate blood flow and are independently associated with AFib.


Read more about valvular heart diseases

Thyroid disorder

A dysfunctional thyroid will disturb the production of hormones. This can lead to atrial fibrillation.
(source: Circulation)

Obesity

Overweight contributes to the onset of atrial fibrillation. The Clinical Electrophysiology Journal states that: "incremental increases in BMI are associated with a significant excess risk of AFib".

Lung disease

Chronic obstrusive pulmonary disease may also be independantly associated with atrial fibrillation.

(source: Int. Journal of Cardiology)


What are the possible complications of AFib ?


AFib is associated with a 1.5- to 1.9-fold mortality risk after adjustment for the preexisting cardiovascular conditions with which AF was related.

(source: The Framingham Heart Study, Circulation)

Stroke

When a heart contraction is either too fast or too uneven, it does not completely squeeze the blood out of the atria causing blood clots. The blood clot can be pumped out of the heart to the brain and block off the blood supply to an artery in the brain, this is commonly called a stroke.


Heart failure

AFib can cause the heart to beat so fast that it doesn’t fill up with enough blood to pump out to the body.


Cognitive decline

Atrial fibrillation is also associated with cognitive decline. (source: Journal of the American Heart Association)

How to detect AFib?

The only way to efficiently diagnose AFib is to record an electrocardiogram (ECG). This painless and non-invasive test can record the electrical activity of your heart.


However, because the early episodes of AFib are temporary, signs of AFib may not be recorded during a doctor’s visit.



Learn more about ECG Recording

How should AFib be treated?

The treatment goals for AFib are to reset the heart’s rhythm and prevent blood clots in order to decrease the risk of strokes.


To control the cardiac rhythm, doctors may use medicines such as blood thinners, administer electric shocks, or proceed to the ablation of the heart tissue causing atrial fibrillation.


Depending on the situation and type of AFib, the cardiologist will define the best strategy to treat atrial fibrillation patients.


However, the longer a patient has AFib, the less likely it is that doctors can restore a normal heart rhythm.

Get your own ECG measurement at home


Given how life-threatening AFib complications can be, it is important for those who may be at risk to routinely record ECG measurements.

BPM Core and atrial fibrillation


BPM Core is a smart blood-pressure monitor with an ECG and a digital stethoscope designed to help users monitor and prevent heart disease.

To record an ECG that can detect AFib, place the cuff on the upper arm and place the other hand on its stainless-steel sensors for 20 seconds. Heart rhythms are tracked and displayed within the Health Mate app and will show if the heart beats too quickly and irregularly.

Equipped with advanced built-in medical sensors, the award-winning BPM Core is a 3-in-1 device that has a battery life up to 6 months.

Learn more about BPM Core

Move ECG and atrial fibrillation


Move ECG is the first activity & sleep tracking analog watch with the ability to take an electrocardiogram on demand to help detect atrial fibrillation.

Equipped with three electrodes to ensure measurement accuracy, Move ECG allows anyone to easily capture a real-time electrocardiogram. Simply press the side button once and gently place your fingers on the bezel (top ring) for 30 seconds to start recording anywhere, anytime. It syncs automatically with the Health Mate app and shows whether the heart is beating in a normal pattern or whether there are signs of AFib.


Developed in conjunction with medical experts, Move ECG is a non-intrusive watch that also features activity and sleep tracking with a battery life of up to 12 months.

Learn more about Move ECG