The Difference Between AFib and a Heart Attack and Why They Feel So Similar

Many times, patients who experience a particularly bad episode of atrial fibrillation or AFib end up in the emergency room thinking they had a heart attack. After significant testing, they may find out, to their surprise, that they have AFib instead.

Man clutches his chest as he wonders if his symptoms are a heart attack, but these symptoms could be Afib according to electrophysiologist Dr. Andrea Tordini.

And while AFib and a heart attack share some symptoms, they are very different conditions with very different treatments and outcomes. Of course, it is extremely important to be aware of your heart health and if you’re experiencing any unusual chest pains to call 911 or visit the emergency room immediately.

Similar symptoms between AFib and a heart attack

  • Fatigue and difficulty performing activities
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

However, a heart attack also has some very distinct symptoms that one would not experience with AFib. These may include:

  • Arm pain
  • Back pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Nausea

While these symptoms generally hold true, heart attacks do manifest in different ways in different people. No two heart attacks are the same and neither are their symptoms. Sometimes, people don’t even know they’ve had a heart attack because they brush off mild symptoms as something else. In fact, heart attacks are one of the leading killers of both men and women in United States.

Similarities in prevention

While these two conditions and their treatments are very different, prevention of heart attacks and AFib is quite similar. In both cases, the risk for the condition is significantly increased by poor general health, often caused by excess weight, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption and stress. Addressing these parts of your life can significantly reduce the risk of all cardiovascular related conditions, including a heart attack and AFib.

However, even the healthiest of patients can, at some point in their lives, develop AFib or have a heart attack. That is why you must educate yourself on the basics of heart health and what to look out for in case of an abnormality. Having comprehensive care, in the form of a trusted cardiologist and electrophysiologist as part of your team, can help ensure that future cardiovascular issues are detected early and treated appropriately. As with most conditions, there are risk factors and warning signs that can be addressed to avoid the very worst effects.

If you have any concerns about heart rhythm issues or if you’ve experienced palpitations or a fast heartbeat in the past, a visit to an electrophysiologist like Dr. Tordini is a great first step in understanding more about your heart rhythm and whether it is something to be concerned about. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Tordini is a part of Florida Medical Clinic in Tampa

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