Atrial fibrillation, Healthcare, Heart Diseases, Heart Health, Heart Monitoring

Difference Between AFib and All Other Heart Palpitations

Every second of the day, your heart is working hard to pump enough blood to each body organ. Through the blood, the organs are getting all of the nutrients and oxygen they need. Every time your heart is pumping blood, it makes a noticeable sound known as the heartbeat. 

Each heartbeat is controlled by the heart’s electrical system. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for this electrical system to fail to function correctly. Various factors can cause disturbances in this electrical system. Some examples are coronary heart disease, heart surgery, electrolyte disbalances, etc. 

As a result of the disturbed electrical system, you may experience arrhythmias. There are many different types of arrhythmias, with AFib being the most common type. Arrhythmias are not to be confused with the more common heart palpitations. There is a major difference between AFib and palpitations, and that is what we are here to talk about today.

The Difference Between Heart Palpitations & AFib

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Before we discuss the difference between AFib and palpitations, we first need to learn what these terms mean. In the following, you will learn what AFib and heart palpitations are. We will also go through the most common causes and complications. 

Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations are described as a racing heartbeat. The heart may even skip or add a beat, and with that, cause noticeable changes in the heart rhythm. The heart palpitations can be felt even in the neck, throat, and chest. 

Often patients describe heart palpitations as a pounding and/or fluttering heart.

In most cases, the heart palpitations go away on their own. But they can also be more severe and a sign of a more serious underlying health issue that requires medical assistance. If dizziness, fainting, excessive sweating, chest tightness, and shortness of breath accompany the heart palpitations, seek immediate medical assistance. 

The possible causes of heart palpitations include:

  • Excessive use of caffeine and/or alcohol;
  • Nicotine use;
  • Stress;
  • Lack of sleep;
  • Panic;
  • Dehydration;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Shock;
  • Fever, etc.

A defective heart valve and congestive heart failure can also cause heart palpitations. These are considered to be more serious factors. As such, they require immediate medical assistance. 


AFib, or atrial fibrillation, is the most common type of heart arrhythmias. In the case of AFib, the heart beats irregularly. AFib develops as a result of a problem with the heart’s electrical system. 

Similar to heart palpitations, AFib, too, causes the heart rate to slow down or speed up. It can also cause the heart to skip a beat or even flutter, creating the well-known “quivering heart sensation.”

But the difference between AFib and palpitations can be seen. 

Although AFib, too, can be caused by extreme emotions. Such as fear, stress, and happiness, in the majority of cases, it develops as a symptom of more serious health issues. Coronary heart disease, heart surgery, and electrolyte imbalances are some of the most common causes of AFib. 

AFib is also commonly seen in elderly people over the age of 65. The risk is increased in case of a thyroid issue being present, which is less often seen in heart palpitations. AFib tends to last longer than heart palpitations caused by extreme emotions. Heart palpitations often cause symptoms such as sweating and vomiting. Although these symptoms can be seen in AFib, that is a rare occasion.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

If you experience a quivering and racing heart rate out of nowhere, that may be a sign of AFib. A pounding heart due to anxiety or intensive exercise may not be so worrying, as it is probably a case of heart palpitations.

If symptoms such as chest tightness and shortness of breath are present, do not hesitate to call your doctor, as you may be in a life-threatening condition. 

During your visit to the doctor, be prepared to answer various questions regarding your heart. Mention any factors that may have contributed to your current state. Any stressful situations, events, and strong emotions that may have influenced your heart function need to be mentioned. Something helpful for daily heart health monitoring and your doctor is a personal, portable ECG/EKG. These solutions can be used anywhere anytime with the assistance of your mobile device. In the blink of an eye, they evaluate your normal heart rate and heart rhythm trends. 

Revise your medical history as it will be important during this talk. Do not hesitate to report any unhealthy habits of yours. Such as the use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and even medications – prescribed and over-the-counter ones. 


There are a lot of things that can go wrong with one of the most important body organs – the heart. Being able to recognize the early signs and ask for help may help save your life. That is why today, we decided to talk about one quite serious heart issue – AFib. 

However, because many of us tend to mistake AFib for much less serious heart palpitations, we decided to explain the difference between AFib and palpitations. We hope that you will now be able to notice any of these symptoms and talk to your doctor about them. 

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