Managing atrial fibrillation: An update

New guidelines provide advice on the role of drugs, weight loss, and procedures to cope with this common heart rhythm disorder.

The classic symptom of atrial fibrillation — a fluttering or thumping sensation in the chest — can leave you breathless, dizzy, and tired. Caused by electrical misfires in the heart's upper chambers (atria), this condition affects an estimated one in 11 people ages 65 and older.

While the symptoms of atrial fibrillation (often called afib) can be unsettling, the real danger is a heightened risk of serious strokes (see "How afib can lead to a stroke"). As many as 30% of strokes from afib prove fatal, notes Dr. Christian Ruff, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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