The Risks of Untreated Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib is an irregular heartbeat caused by confused and disorganized electrical signals in the heart. It’s estimated that 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib, and many may not realize it. 

The irregular heart rhythm can increase risk of other conditions, especially if it’s left untreated. Your heart is the engine of your body, and when the engine isn’t working properly, the rest of the body doesn’t work correctly either. That’s why there are many risks associated with atrial fibrillation


Fatigue is one of the most common effects of AFib. When your heart can’t pump enough, you’ll feel tired. AFib can also cause fluid to build up in your lungs, which can make exhaustion even worse.

Sleep apnea

While atrial fibrillation isn’t a direct correlation to sleep apnea, they share a lot of the same risk factors and often come together. This problem can add to fatigue issues that you already have from your heart not beating properly.


One of the biggest risks of atrial fibrillation is stroke. The irregular rhythm associated with atrial fibrillation can let blood stay behind and pool in areas of the heart. That increases the possibility of a clot that can stop blood flow partially or completely, which can then cause a stroke.

Heart failure

If you’re dealing with AFib, your heart might beat way too fast for short periods of time, which doesn’t allow it to properly fill with blood in order to pump correctly. When the heart beats too fast for a long enough period, it can cause heart failure, which can increase fatigue and lead to buildup of fluid in the lungs.

Memory loss

People with AFib do worse on memory and learning tests than those without the condition. They’re also at higher risk of dementia, which likely stems from the brain not getting enough blood.

AFib is a serious condition that needs immediate attention. If you haven’t talked with a physician about the possibilities for treatment, you need to as soon as possible. Treatment options include medications, cardioversion to put the heart back into normal rhythm, or a catheter ablation to destroy the tissue causing the arrhythmia. Patients with AFib are often prescribed a blood thinner to reduce their risk of stroke as well. 

If you have experienced any symptoms of AFib or are concerned about the associated risks, contact the Oklahoma Heart Hospital today to schedule an appointment. We can help diagnose and treat the condition to reduce the overall risk to your health.