Where does your fatigue come from?
When your heart beats faster than normal for a long stretch of time, the muscle gets tired. That’s the short answer. However, understanding what exactly is happening with AFib can help you pinpoint the problem (and hopefully help you to treat it).
A rapid heart rate is a primary issue: healthy atria contract between 60 and 80 times a minute, but when your atria are in fibrillation, the contractions are incomplete. Instead, these upper chambers quiver – up to 400 times each minute.
Although your AV node tries to calm this overactivity, it can’t halt every extra electrical impulse. These erratic electrical signals funnel into the ventricles, causing the heart to beat much faster than normal, and that can feel like an exhausting workout.
A rapid heartbeat is only one part of the equation; inefficient blood flow can be another source of fatigue. When the atrial chambers flutter instead of contract, they can’t pump blood as well, which means the oxygen-rich blood your tissues rely on won’t always reach them. When your tissues and organs run out of fuel, you can feel weak and tired.
Is another condition at play?
It’s not unusual for AFib to come with (or from) other chronic conditions, especially if that other issue has been mismanaged or gone untreated. Cardiovascular disease is a significant risk factor for AFib, and it can bring side effects like shortness of breath, and, in turn, decreased energy. Congenital heart defects can also be to blame – for some people, one of the first warning signs of a defect is shortness of breath and fatigue.
Although older age, high blood pressure, and heart disease top the list of fatigue risk factors, other health issues can also drain your energy and encourage AFib symptoms. Sleep apnea, asthma, and COPD can all interfere with how oxygen moves to your tissues, which means they can cause even more fatigue than you’d have with AFib alone.
Change your habits, change your energy levels
Managing your AFib symptoms is a key to improving processes in your body and boosting your energy levels. You can modify your routine to respect your limitations, helping you to conserve more energy to use throughout the day. And by working to keep your symptoms to a minimum, you can avoid the consequences of a prolonged elevated heart rate.