The Most Common Type
of Irregular Heartbeat
There are 2 types of atrial fibrillation (AFib): one caused by a heart valve problem, and one that is not. The majority of AFib is not caused by a heart valve problem and affects approximately 6.4 million people in the U.S. You may have also heard the term "nonvalvular atrial fibrillation" or NVAF. It means the same thing as "atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem."
Doctors may refer to it this way.
Understanding the Connection to Stroke Risk
Having AFib not caused by a heart valve problem increases your risk of stroke.
- People who have it are at 5 times greater risk of suffering a stroke.
- 15% of strokes are due to this condition.
- AFib is one of the most common risk factors for stroke.
If you have AFib not caused by a heart valve problem, it's important to ask your doctor about treatment options that can help reduce the risk of stroke.
in My Heart?
If you have AFib, the 2 top chambers of your heart, atria, quiver (fibrillate) instead of fully contracting to push blood through the heart.
Try to picture your heart as a soft squeeze bottle filled with liquid. Now imagine pressing very quickly but lightly. You never get all the liquid out the way you would with a full squeeze. This can allow blood to pool there.
When blood pools, it can clump together, increasing the risk for clots to form. If the clot breaks loose and travels to the brain, it may block or limit blood flow, causing a stroke.
What are the symptoms of AFib not caused by a heart valve problem?
Symptoms can be different for everyone. A racing or pounding heart, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fatigue are common symptoms of AFib not caused by a heart valve problem. Some people have no symptoms at all and may not even know they have it until it’s discovered in a routine checkup. You should know that having AFib not caused by a heart valve problem puts you at a greater risk of stroke—even if you have no symptoms.
Next: How AFib Can Lead to a Stroke