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April 26, 2018Explaining ECG and Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a common condition which causes your heart to beat irregularly, and often faster than normal. This irregular heartbeat can sometimes cause symptoms including dizziness, shortness of breath and tiredness (although it won’t always give you any noticeable symptoms).  People with atrial fibrillation may also notice heart palpitations which can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Around 1 million people in the UK are thought to have atrial fibrillation, with thousands more cases going by undiagnosed.

Causes and risks

Atrial fibrillation can be caused by high blood pressure, excessive alcohol consumption or heart valve disease – but in many instances no underlying causes can be detected. Having atrial fibrillation can increase your risk of certain illnesses – it’s a major cause of stroke in the UK, and you’re 5 times more likely to suffer a stroke if you have atrial fibrillation.


Atrial Fibrillation can be uncomfortable for sufferers – if treatment is deemed necessary, medications like beta-blockers and anti-arrhythmic drugs will commonly be used to control the condition. Occasionally, further medical procedures like ablation and cardioversion may be required.


An ECG (also called an electrocardiogram or EKG) is a painless test which records your heart’s electrical activity by using electrodes which are attached to your ankles, wrists and sometimes your chest.  It’s the simplest way to check your heart rhythm and heart rate to detect any abnormalities, including atrial fibrillation.

Find out more about ECG and Atrial Fibrillation testing here.


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