Recognizing Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common type of heart arrhythmias, affecting more than 30 million people around the world. AFib can lead to complications such as stroke and congestive heart failure when left untreated, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms and understand the risk factors. CHI St. Vincent cardiologist Dr. Mangaraju Chakka likened atrial fibrillation to firecrackers going off in a small box. 

“Imagine how they all fly around and that’s how the electricity is going around in the top chamber,” he said. 

Characterized by palpitations, irregular heartbeats, anxiety, shortness of breath and fatigue, the chaotic acceleration of the top chamber of the heart leads to increased stress on the bottom chamber. 

“The bottom chamber is pumping irregularly and faster, and that’s what people feel,” said Dr. Chakka. “People usually don’t feel the top chamber palpitations. They feel the bottom chamber irregularity.” 

The risk of developing AFib increases with age and approximately 1 in 25 Americans over the age of 60 have it. If you are at an increased risk and start exhibiting symptoms, Dr. Chakka and the team of heart specialists are here to help. You can even get started at home by taking the free, online AFIB health risk assessment from the CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute.

To learn more about compassionate heart care at CHI St. Vincent and our individual treatment plans for atrial fibrillation, visit