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Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an arrhythmia that can lead to several patient risks. This kind of arrhythmia affects mostly elderly people, in particular those who suffer from heart failure (one of the main causes of hospitalization). Thus, detection of AF becomes decisive in the prevention of cardiac threats. In this paper an algorithm for AF detection based on a novel algorithm architecture and feature extraction methods is proposed. The aforementioned architecture is based on the analysis of the three main physiological characteristics of AF: i) P wave absence ii) heart rate irregularity and iii) atrial activity (AA). Discriminative features are extracted using model-based statistic and frequency based approaches. Sensitivity and specificity results (respectively, 93.80% and 96.09% using the MIT-BIH AF database) show that the proposed algorithm is able to outperform state-of-the-art methods.