Atrial fibrillation - which can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications - affects as many as 6 million people in the United States. It's more common in whites than in blacks and Hispanics, and more common among men than women.
Symptoms can include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness and fatigue. Risk factors include high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, tobacco and alcohol abuse and uncontrolled diabetes.
"Once the genie is out of the bottle, you can't stuff it back in," said Dr. Christopher Rogers, a cardiologist at Penn State Health Medical Group -- Berks Cardiology in Wyomissing, Pa.
A-fib "is very frustrating for the patient and physician to take care of. While there is no cure, we can manage the symptoms and do certain things to treat it," he said in a Penn State news release.
"What's most important is protecting the patient from having a stroke and controlling their heart rate. Stroke as a result of a-fib is the largest problem, and determining a patient's stroke risks is essential," Rogers explained.
A-fib treatment options range from medications to cardiac ablation, a procedure that targets heart tissue that triggers abnormal rhythm.
"Our society wants a quick fix for complex problems," but atrial fibrillation "is not a condition that we can simply cure. It takes multiple approaches and perseverance to treat an individual appropriately," Rogers said.
Exercise, a healthy diet, weight control, avoiding caffeine or other stimulants and managing high blood pressure and cholesterol are among the lifestyle habits that can reduce the risk of a-fib.