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How prevalent are atrial flutters?

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Quick Answer

Atrial flutters are fairly common, affecting nearly 34 million people around the world or 0.5 percent of the population, according to Healthline. As of 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that two to six million people in the United States have the condition, with the bulk of that number occurring in the elderly.

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Atrial flutters occurs when the heart beats irregularly, states Medline Plus. Instead of moving together, the atria, or upper chambers, beat slightly out of sync with the ventricles, or lower chambers, because the sinoatrial node generates an irregular electrical signal. Atrial flutters can occur due to excess alcohol use, heart disease, heart-valve disease and heart failure. They can also occur in response to certain medicines, an overactive thyroid gland and sick sinus syndrome.

Although many people with this problem are unaware of it, they can experience secondary symptoms, such as a fast, slow or irregular pulse; dizziness; fatigue; shortness of breath and confusion, explains Medline Plus. Doctors give those with atrial flutters electric shocks or drugs to normalize the rhythm. Calcium channel blockers and beta-blockers can help to keep the heart beating regularly, and blood thinners prevent blood clots due to the arrhythmia from causing a stroke.

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