ABOUT 'BEAT YOUR A-FIB'...


"This book is incredibly complete and easy-to-understand for anybody. I certainly recommend it for patients who want to know more about atrial fibrillation than what they will learn from doctors...."

Pierre Jaïs, M.D. Professor of Cardiology, Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux, France

"Dear Steve, I saw a patient this morning with your book [in hand] and highlights throughout. She loves it and finds it very useful to help her in dealing with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Wilber Su Cavanaugh Heart Center, Phoenix, AZ

"Your book [Beat Your A-Fib] is the quintessential most important guide not only for the individual experiencing atrial fibrillation and his family, but also for primary physicians, and cardiologists."

Jane-Alexandra Krehbiel, nurse, blogger and author "Rational Preparedness: A Primer to Preparedness"



ABOUT A-FIB.COM...


"Steve Ryan's summaries of the Boston A-Fib Symposium are terrific. Steve has the ability to synthesize and communicate accurately in clear and simple terms the essence of complex subjects. This is an exceptional skill and a great service to patients with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Jeremy Ruskin of Mass. General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

"I love your [A-fib.com] website, Patti and Steve! An excellent resource for anybody seeking credible science on atrial fibrillation plus compelling real-life stories from others living with A-Fib. Congratulations…"

Carolyn Thomas, blogger and heart attack survivor; MyHeartSisters.org

"Steve, your website was so helpful. Thank you! After two ablations I am now A-fib free. You are a great help to a lot of people, keep up the good work."

Terry Traver, former A-Fib patient

"If you want to do some research on AF go to A-Fib.com by Steve Ryan, this site was a big help to me, and helped me be free of AF."

Roy Salmon Patient, A-Fib Free; pacemakerclub.com, Sept. 2013


Causes

Can I Prevent Familial A-Fib with Diet? Supplements?

I’ve posted a new Frequently Asked Question and Answer about A-Fib that runs in families:

“Both my uncles and my Dad have Atrial Fibrillation. I’m 50 years old and so far I don’t have A-Fib (yet), but I’m worried. How can I avoid developing A-Fib? Can dietary changes help? Or lifestyle changes?”

A-Fib does run in families and is called Familial A-Fib. Research says you have a 40% increased risk of developing A-Fib yourself. And the younger your uncles and dad were when they got A-Fib, the more likely you are to develop A-Fib. So, you are correct to be concerned about getting A-Fib.

My answer covers:

• What can someone with A-Fib in the family do to avoid getting A-Fib?
• Is there a diet to prevent A-Fib? The Mediterranean diet? A whole-food organic diet?
• What are the causes of A-Fib that can be controlled?
• Do mineral deficiencies cause A-FIb?
• What are the vitamins and supplements known to improve your overall heart health?  (I take these myself to help stay A-Fib free after my 1998 catheter ablation which isolated only one of my pulmonary vein, common at the time.)

Read my full answer at FAQs: Can I Prevent Familial A-Fib with Diet? Supplements?

FAQs: Can I Prevent Familial A-Fib with Diet? Supplements?

“Both my uncles and my Dad have Atrial Fibrillation. I’m 50 years old and so far I don’t have A-Fib (yet), but I’m worried. How can I avoid developing A-Fib? Can dietary changes help? Or lifestyle changes?”

A-Fib does run in families and is called Familial A-Fib. Research says you have a 40% increased risk of developing A-Fib yourself. And the younger that family member was when they got A-Fib, the more likely you are to develop A-Fib. So, you are correct to be concerned about getting A-Fib. 

Note: Most heart health eating plans aim to improve the ‘plumbing’ of the heart, whereas A-Fib is primarily an ‘electrical’ problem.

A Heart Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

While there’s no “Atrial Fibrillation diet” proven to prevent, stop or cure A-Fib, anything that improves your overall heart health might indirectly affect developing A-Fib.

Start with a ‘heart healthy’ diet and healthy lifestyle. There are lots of on-line resources and books about eating healthy for your heart.

• The U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends the “DASH” eating plan which reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease;
• A Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation, according to a article by Case Adams, a board-certified Naturopath;
• A whole-food organic diet is “preferred” for A-Fib patients, states Naturopathic doctor (ND) Dan Carter. But he doesn’t claim that this diet will prevent or cure A-Fib.

For more about a whole food or organic diet, read my FAQ answer.

A-Fib Causes: Some are Under Your Control

The four main causes or co-morbidities of A-Fib are sleep apnea, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. If you have any of these conditions, it’s important to get them under control.

Binge drinking has been known to start one’s A-Fib, as well as smoking and excessive stress or anxiety. Avoid these as much as you can. (Also, many patients develop A-Fib post-surgery due to sudden low levels of magnesium.)

Dehydration can contribute to A-Fib. Too much alcohol or caffeine and too little water can alter the fluid levels in your body. Consume an adequate amount of water especially on hot days and when exercising.

Minerals Quad- flat 200 pixVitamins, Supplements and Herbs

Several vitamins, supplements and herbs have been shown to reduce or eliminate A-Fib symptoms. Magnesium and Potassium deficiencies are prevalent among A-Fib patients, as well as Calcium overload. Read more on our Mineral Deficiencies page.

For a list of 7 other vitamins and supplements known to improve your overall heart health, see my article: ‘Natural’ Supplements for a Healthy Heart’. (I take these myself to help stay A-Fib free after my 1998 catheter ablation which isolated only one of my pulmonary vein, common at the time.)

What This Means to Families of A-Fib Patients

With A-Fib running in your family, you have a 40% increased risk of developing A-Fib yourself. And the younger your uncles and dad were when they got A-Fib, the more likely you are to develop A-Fib.

The younger your uncles and dad were when they got A-Fib, the more likely you are to develop A-Fib.

While there’s no diet to prevent A-Fib, you can get control of co-morbidities such as obesity, sleep apnea, diabetes and high blood pressure. And you can avoid lifestyle choices like binge drinking, smoking, excessive stress and anxiety that increase your odds of A-Fib. (If you have surgery, ask your doctor about Magnesium IV post-op).

Above all, choose a healthy heart lifestyle, exercise, don’t overindulge and eat well.

References for this article

Return to: FAQs Coping With Your A-Fib Day-to-Day Issues

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wonder if You Have Sleep Apnea? At-Home Testing Option

WatchPat device product image

Photo: Itamar Medical patient brochure

At least 49% of all patients with A-Fib suffer from Sleep Apnea as well. With untreated Sleep Apnea, you have a greater chance of a more severe form of A-Fib and increased risk of recurrence after a successful catheter ablation.

Everyone with A-Fib should be tested for sleep apnea. Traditionally this has involved an overnight stay in the sleep lab.

But now there’s an alternative! You can test at home with the WatchPAT™ device.

The WatchPAT™ is an FDA-approved wrist-worn sleep study device you can use in the comfort of your own bedroom to determine if you have sleep apnea. (PAT is short for Peripheral Arterial Tonometry [pressure measurement].)

Multiple studies have shown there is a high correlation of the WatchPAT with sleep indexes such as the respiratory disturbance index (RDI) and the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), compared with the same indexes measured by the normal sleep test PSG.

If you think you may have untreated Sleep Apnea: read my full review.

Women, Mother Nature and Gender Bias

by Patti J. Ryan, August 2015

Several studies have established that the symptoms and consequences of A-Fib are more profoundly felt in women.

Mother Nature and A-Fib Symptoms in Women

Females tend to develop A-Fib at a later age than men. They are also more likely to seek medical attention, are usually more symptomatic, and have higher heart rates. A-Fib tends to affect their physical quality of life more severely.

While men as a group develop A-Fib twice as often as women, there are twice as many females as males in the age group with the highest percentage of A-Fib.

Cardiovascular mortality rates are 2.5-fold greater for women with A-Fib. Women have a 4.6-fold higher rate of stroke. A-Fib is the most frequent cause of disabling stroke in elderly females.

Remember: you don’t have to live with A-Fib! Seek your cure.

What can you do about it? As a female with A-Fib, you may have more symptoms, quality of life issues and are at greater risk of an A-Fib-related stroke. But you don’t have to live with A-Fib. As soon as practical, get a referral to a heart rhythm specialist (a cardiologist with a specialty in electrophysiology). Early diagnosis means less damage to your heart and more treatment options.

More topics in this report:

Drug Therapies for Women with A-Fib and Risk of Stroke

Differences in Catheter Ablation for Females with A-Fib

Gender Bias Also Plays a Role

Why is there Gender Bias in the Treatment of Women with A-Fib?

Good News: EPs Less Likely to Have Gender Bias

Read my entire report: The Facts About Women with A-Fib: Mother Nature and Gender Bias—Or—Get Thee to an EP ASAP

Women with A-Fib: Mother Nature and Gender Bias—Or—Get Thee to an EP ASAP

Research on Atrial FibrillationThe Facts About Women with A-Fib: Mother Nature and Gender Bias—Or—Get Thee to an EP ASAP

by Patti J. Ryan, August 2015

Several studies have established that the symptoms and consequences of A-Fib are more profoundly felt in women.

Mother Nature and A-Fib Symptoms in Women

Females tend to develop A-Fib at a later age than men. They are also more likely to seek medical attention, are usually more symptomatic, and have higher heart rates. A-Fib tends to affect their physical quality of life more severely.

While men as a group develop A-Fib twice as often as women, there are twice as many females as males in the age group with the highest percentage of A-Fib.

Cardiovascular mortality rates are 2.5-fold greater for women with A-Fib. Women have a 4.6-fold higher rate of stroke. A-Fib is the most frequent cause of disabling stroke in elderly females.

Remember: you don’t have to live with A-Fib! Seek your cure.

What can you do about it? As a female with A-Fib, you may have more symptoms, quality of life issues and are at greater risk of an A-Fib-related stroke. But you don’t have to live with A-Fib. As soon as practical, get a referral to a heart rhythm specialist (a cardiologist with a specialty in electrophysiology). Early diagnosis means less damage to your heart and more treatment options.

Drug Therapies for Women with A-Fib and Risk of Stroke

Women fail more antiarrhythmic drugs therapies than men. Women don’t do well on some antiarrhythmic drugs (estrogen may prolong the QT interval).

Antiarrhythmic drug therapy in women with hypertension is associated with more major cardiovascular events. (Some research indicates that women may have more hypertension than men, 55.2% vs 40%).

What this means to patients: Drugs don’t cure A-Fib but merely keep it at bay, says heart rhythm specialist, Dr. Dhiraj Gupta. Antiarrhythmic drugs only work for about 50% of patients, and often stop working after a period of time. Many can’t tolerate the side effects.
Don’t spend a year in A-Fib trying different medications or combinations of medications only to find none work for you. In addition, anticoagulants, like warfarin, for your increased stroke risk, have their own health risks. Don’t live a life on medication. Seek your cure.

Differences in Catheter Ablation for Females with A-Fib

Women, in general, have smaller cardiac chambers so that catheter manipulation is more of a challenge (40.6 mm on average for women vs 44.6 mm for men). (However, since research data shows there is a significant delay in referral for ablation in women, it is feasible that they may have larger left atrial sizes due to remodeling, making this a moot point.)

Run, don’t walk to the best heart rhythm specialist (an electrophysiologist) you can find. 

Females have more non-PV triggers and have lower ablation success rates.

Females tend to have more ablation complications like pericardial tamponade and vascular complications.

What can you do about it? Don’t delay. “Run, don’t walk” to the best heart rhythm specialist (an electrophysiologist) you can find, advises former A-Fib patient Sheri Weber. A-Fib is a progressive disease. Consult an EP after your diagnosis. Don’t wait for your A-Fib to get worse. (A-Fib rarely gets better.)

Gender Bias Also Plays a Role

Women are referred to A-Fib specialists three times less often than men. Men with A-Fib are managed more aggressively (such as more cardioversions) prior to seeking a catheter ablation.

Women often have developed a larger left atrium because of being referred to EPs later in their treatment plan than men (60 months for females vs 47 months for males).

Women are referred to A-Fib specialists three times less often than men.

Women are referred for catheter ablation less frequently and later into their treatment plan than men. When referred, they are older on average than men (61.6 years old vs 56.9 years old for men).

Consequently, they have more complex symptoms, and their procedure success rate is lower with more complications.

What can you do about it? When you go to your GP or cardiologist with your A-Fib symptoms or complaints, anticipate gender bias! Don’t let it deter you. A-Fib is a progressive disease. Don’t waste time. Don’t let your A-Fib worsen over time by remodeling or enlarging your heart. Request a referral to a heart rhythm specialist―an electrophysiologist (EP). Until you consult an EP, you may not be getting the best and most up-to-date A-Fib treatment advice. You deserve nothing less.

Don’t just take your meds and get used to being in A-Fib.

Why is there Gender Bias in the Treatment of Women with A-Fib?

In many cultures and societies, doctors are more conservative in their treatment of women with A-Fib. Some doctors, concerned with safety, may be reluctant to perform or recommend any invasive procedures in women.

Social and family pressures may delay medical consultation and treatment (“I can’t be sick. My family needs me.”) Access to health care may be limited for some women.

And, of course, there’s plain ol’ bias by male doctors against female patients. “Your symptoms are all in your mind.” or “Just take your meds and get used to being in A-Fib.” (These are actual quotes from A-Fib.com readers about their doctors’ advice.)

What can you do about it? Be prepared for your doctor appointment with a list of questions or concerns. Don’t leave until you have answers. Don’t be afraid to ‘fire’ your doctor. Get a second, or third opinion. Find a doctor who will partner with you to find your cure or best outcome. (For help, use the Finding the Right Doctor for You resources on A-Fib.com.)

Good News: EPs Less Likely to Have Gender Bias

Research indicates female gender bias tends to disappear when a woman sees an electrophysiologist (EP), particularly concerning catheter ablation. This suggests that treatment bias may be more at the primary care level, i.e., your GP or general cardiologist.

What this means to patients: It’s reassuring to be in the care of someone who regularly treats A-Fib patients. A-Fib is an electrical problem. Don’t waste you time. Don’t settle for just ‘managing’ your A-Fib. See a heart rhythm specialist, an electrophysiologist, a cardiologist who specializes in the electrical function of your heart. An EP will discuss all your treatment options. EPs want to free you from the burden of A-Fib.

Patti J Ryan, writer and editor, a-Fib.com

About the author: Patti J. Ryan is editor of A-Fib.com and regularly contributes her writing and graphics expertise.  She is also publisher of Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure by Steve S. Ryan, PhD (BeatYourA-Fib.com), an Amazon.com Top 100 Seller in two health-related categories.

References for this article

VIDEO: Atrial Fibrillation—A Conversation with Dr. Steve S. Ryan

Resources & Links

Video Interview: Steve S. Ryan, PhD, Author of Beat Your A-Fib

Host Skip E. Lowe interviews Steve S Ryan, PhD, about Atrial Fibrillation. Topics include A-Fib symptoms, causes, cures and Dr. Ryan’s book, Beat Your A-Fib – The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure. Skip E. relays his own experiences with A-Fib. Dr. Ryan warns about incorrect A-Fib information found on the internet and in print media.  Recorded in W. Hollywood, CA. 14:53 min.

About Steve S. Ryan, PhD: An advocate for patients with Atrial Fibrillation, Dr. Ryan is publisher of the patient education website ‘Atrial Fibrillation: Resources for Patients’  (A-Fib.com), author of the award-winning book, ‘Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure’ (BeatYourA-Fib.com) and known as The A-Fib Coach for his one-to-one mentoring of A-Fib patients.

Return to Videos Featuring Steve S. Ryan, PhD

Last updated: Tuesday, April 21, 2015

 

Sleep Apnea—New At-Home Testing Option

At least 49% of all patients with A-Fib suffer from Sleep Apnea as well. With untreated Sleep Apnea, you have a greater chance of a more severe form of A-Fib and increased risk of recurrence after a successful catheter ablation.   Everyone with A-Fib should be tested for sleep apnea which involves an overnight stay in the sleep lab. Now there’s an alternative—you can test at home with the WatchPAT™ device.

If you have untreated Sleep Apnea, your chances of having a more Read more.

Catheter Ablation Reduces Stroke Risk even for Higher Risk Patients

Catheter Ablation Reduces Stroke Risk Even for Higher Risk Patients

by Steve S. Ryan, April 2015

In a study of nearly 38,000 people, patients with A-Fib who had a catheter ablation had about as many strokes as the people without A-Fib, while people on just medication had about twice as many strokes. (This isn’t a surprising finding. If you no longer have A-Fib, by definition you can’t have an A-Fib stroke.)

But what is surprising is that even patients at greater risk of stroke had a reduced stroke risk after catheter ablation. “Across all CHADS2 profiles and ages, A-Fib patients with ablation had a lower long-term risk of stroke compared to patients without ablation.” Even those at higher risks of stroke had a reduced risk of stroke.

Catheter Ablation Reduces Stroke Risk to That Of A Normal Person

And, more importantly, if someone had a catheter ablation, stroke risk decreased to that of a normal person. “A-Fib ablation patients had similar long-term risks of stroke across all CHADS2 profiles and ages compared to patients with no history of A-Fib.” “…freedom from A-Fib was the strongest predictor of stroke-free survival.”

Warfarin Not Needed After Successful Catheter Ablation

Some patients after a catheter ablation are still put on warfarin-for-life depending on their CHADS2 score. But research indicates that “A-Fib patients after ablation with moderate to high risk CHADS2 scores in which warfarin was discontinued do not show a higher risk of stroke compared to those in which warfarin is continued.”1

Editor’s Comments:
This study is medical breakthrough news, similar to another important study in which a successful catheter ablation reduced by 60% the expected rate of cardiovascular mortality. (See Live Longer—Have a Catheter Ablation.)
For anyone who has had a successful catheter ablation or who is thinking of having one, this study also is a game changer!
Even if you are at a theoretical high risk of stroke (high CHADS2), you don’t have to be on warfarin for the rest of your life after a successful catheter ablation. A successful catheter ablation reduces your stroke risk to that of a normal person (though obviously normal people do have strokes).
We already know that a catheter ablation significantly improves our well being. We certainly feel healthier in sinus rhythm. Few other medical procedures produce such a dramatic and nearly immediate improvement in our quality of life. This study confirms the long-term benefits of catheter ablation even for people who are sicker.
We don’t have to live a life on meds! A-Fib can be cured by a catheter ablation. And when you are made A-Fib free, not only do you feel better, but your risk of stroke is reduced to that of a normal person! This is terrific news for the A-Fib community.
References for this Article

Return to Reasearch and Innovations

Last updated: Tuesday, January 12, 2016

 

References    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Themistoclakis, S. et al. The risk of thromboembolism and need for oral anticoagulation after successful atrial fibrillation ablation. J Am Cardiol. 2010;55:735-743. http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleid=1140481 doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2009.11.039

FAQ: Natural Therapies & Holistic Treatment for A-Fib

Complementary & Natural Therapies

Complementary & Natural Therapies

FAQ: Natural Therapies & Holistic Treatment

Many A-Fib patients have questions about treatment alternatives such as naturopathic doctors, complementary or integrated medicine as well as mind/body practices (such as chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga and meditation).

1. How do I find a doctor with a more “holistic” approach? I want nutritional counseling and a more integrated approach to my A-Fib treatment plan?

2. I’ve read that yoga and acupuncture are considered ‘Complementary Medicine’. What is that? How does it relate to conventional medicine?

3. “A dietitian friend referred me to a Naturopathic doctor. What is naturopathic medicine? Are they ‘real’ physicians?

4. What is the ‘vagal maneuver’? I’ve heard it might help me during an A-Fib episode. What is it and how is it done? Is it safe?

5. Have any A-Fib.com readers reported success working with a Naturopathic doctor? Anyone controlling their A-Fib with supplements?

6. Is a whole food or organic diet helpful for patients with Atrial Fibrillation? Is there any research recommending one or the other?

7. Do A-Fib patients find chiropractic adjustment useful? If so, what are their results? In the past, I’ve found it helpful for other ailments. Could it help with my A-Fib symptoms?

8. I do Yoga. It relaxes me and helps with my stress level. Is there any evidence on Yoga helping with other A-Fib symptoms?

9. “What’s the research on acupuncture and Atrial Fibrillation? I’m willing to try it if it will help ease or reduce my A-Fib episodes.”

10. “Have there been any tests comparing natural blood thinners to the new anticoagulants (NOACs) in terms of efficacy and speed of onset?

“Most people use non-mainstream approaches along with conventional treatments. The boundaries between complementary and conventional medicine overlap and change with time.” ∼ US National Institutes of Health

Last updated: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 

Return to Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs Newly Diagnosed with A-Fib: Cause

 FAQs Newly Diagnosed: Causes

2. “Did I cause my Atrial Fibrillation? Am I responsible for getting A-Fib?”

Most likely not.

We all remember our first attack of A-Fib—the shock, fear, confusion, the sense of something wrong in our body that we can’t control and the rushing to a doctor and/or emergency room.

Often there’s a tendency to blame ourselves, to feel guilt. We ask ourselves “What did I do—or not do—that caused my A-Fib?”

In general we are not responsible and didn’t cause our A-Fib. It’s different from a life-style related condition (like liver failure due to alcohol abuse).

Those newly diagnosed need to think of A-Fib as fate or karma or a life accident—rather than something we bring on ourselves. In life sometimes bad things happen to good people through no fault of their own. Think of A-Fib that way.

We need to keep saying to ourselves, “I am not responsible for my A-Fib. I did not cause my A-Fib,” like a chant or mantra whenever we start feeling guilt or blame for our A-Fib.

Last updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Go back to FAQ for the Newly Diagnosed A-Fib Patient

FAQs from Newly Diagnosed Patient

You are not alone. A-Fib.comFrequently Asked Questions by Newly Diagnosed Patients

Newly diagnosed Atrial Fibrillation patients have many questions about living with A-Fib. These are answers to the most frequently asked questions by patients and their families. (Click on the question to jump to the answer)

1.  My doctor says I had an attack of A-Fib. How much trouble am I in?

2.  Did I cause my Atrial Fibrillation? Am I responsible for getting A-Fib?

3.  “Could my A-Fib go away on its own? I don’t want to take any medication. Can I just wait and see?”

4.  “Is Atrial Fibrillation a prelude to a heart attack?

5.  “Can I die from my Atrial Fibrillation? Is it life threatening?”

6.  “Is Atrial Fibrillation curable? Or can you only treat or control it? Should I seek a cure?

7.  “Is there a diet I could follow which would cure my A-Fib?

8.  “Should I cool my sex life? Can I exercise if I have Atrial Fibrillation? Should I exercise?

9.  “I have a lot of stress at work. Does this stress cause or trigger my A-Fib?”

10. “Can I drive my car if I have Atrial Fibrillation?

11. “Is drinking coffee (tea, colas, other products with caffeine) going to make my A-Fib worse or trigger an A-Fib attack?

12. “Is there anything I can do to get out of an A-Fib episode? How do others deal with their episodes?

13. “Should I carry a wallet card or a medical ID? I have A-Fib and take Coumadin. In case of an A-Fib emergency, what information should I include?

14. “I live in fear of my A-Fib. I never know when I’m going to get an A-Fib attack or how long it will last. How do I deal with the anxiety? 

15. “Should I see a cardiologist for my A-Fib and not just my primary care doctor? He wants to prescribe medication. Should I also see a specialist?”

Last updated: Monday, July 13, 2015

Return to Frequently Asked Questions

What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?

Causes of Atrial Fibrillation, A-Fib, afib, a fib

Causes of Atrial Fibrillation

What are the Causes of A-Fib?

It’s estimated as many as 5.1 million people in the U.S. have A-Fib. By the year 2050, the number will be 12-16 million.1 Each year there are over 340,000 new cases in the US. A-Fib is the most common heart arrhythmia.2 In the U.S. people over 40 have a one in four lifetime risk of developing A-Fib.3

Worldwide the number of cases is estimated to be 33.5 million or 0.5% of the world’s population.4 A-Fib has rightly been called an emerging epidemic.5 

HOW DO YOU GET A-FIB?

Heart Problems

If you’ve had other heart problems, this could lead to diseased heart tissue which generates the extra A-Fib pulses. Hypertension (high blood pressure), Mitral Valve disease, Congestive Heart Failure, coronary artery disease, and obesity6 seem to be related to A-Fib, possibly because they stretch and put pressure on the pulmonary veins where most A-Fib originates. Coronary artery disease reduces blood flow and oxygen (stagnant hypoxia) which can trigger A-Fib.

A lot of A-Fib seems to come from uncontrolled high blood pressure. Many EPs recommend that all hypertension patients get a home BP monitor and aggressively work at controlling their blood pressure.

About 25% to 35% of stroke survivors experience atrial fibrillation;7 Up to 40% of patients8 get A-Fib after open heart surgery. “Pericarditis”—inflammation of the pericardium, a sack-like membrane surrounding the heart—can lead to A-Fib. 

Alcohol Consumption

Heavy drinking may trigger A-Fib, what hospitals call “holiday heart”—the majority of A-Fib admissions occur over weekends or holidays when more alcohol is consumed. No association was found between moderate alcohol use and A-Fib.9 (Heavy drinking reduces the ability of cells to take up and utilize oxygen [histotoxic hypoxia] which in some people may produce or trigger A-Fib. [Thanks to Warren Stuart for this insight.])

See the personal A-Fib story by Kris: “Binge Drinking Leads to Chronic A-Fib, Amiodarone Damages Eyesight” pp. 144-150 in my book, Beat Your A-Fib.

But if you already have A-Fib, even moderate use may trigger an A-Fib attack, “…people with atrial fibrillation had almost a four and a half greater chance of having an episode if they were consuming alcohol than if they were not.”10 (Thanks to David Holzman for calling our attention to this article.)

Otherwise healthy middle-aged women who consumed more than 2 drinks daily were 60% more likely to develop AF.11

Steve Walters writes “that red wine brings on A-Fib attacks for him, but not beer, white wine, or cordials. Has anyone else had similar experiences with red wine?” E-mail: bicwiley(at)gmail.com.

Neville writes that “taking a heavy dose of Magnesium/Potassium tablets and bananas for breakfast kept him out of A-Fib during a golfing weekend with significant drinking.” He uses the same strategy to get out of an A-Fib attack. mfa@optusnet.com.au 

Severe Body & Mind Stress

Severe infections, severe pain, traumatic injury, and illegal drug use can be a trigger. Low or high blood and tissue concentrations of minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium can trigger A-Fib. Thyroid problems (hyperthyroidism), lung disease, reactive hypoglycemia, viral infections and diabetes.

To learn the impact of anxiety and emotional stress on A-Fib, see Jay Teresi’s personal story “Anxiety the Greatest Challenge

Extreme fatigue, anxiety and emotional stress can trigger A-Fib.

Smoking can trigger A-Fib. Smoking reduces the ability of the blood to carry oxygen (anemic hypoxia). Smoking cigarettes raises the risk of developing A-Fib even if one stops smoking, possibly because past smoking leaves behind permanent fibrotic damage to the atrium which makes later A-Fib more likely.12 

Being Overweight

As we put on pounds, our risk of developing A-Fib increases. In recent studies overweight adults were 39% more likely, and obese adults 87% more likely, to develop A-Fib than their normal-weight counterparts.13

Health problems linked to obesity, like high blood pressure and diabetes, can contribute to A-Fib. And obesity may put extra pressure on the pulmonary veins and induce A-Fib. Left atrial hypertension is a common finding in obese patients.

Genetics

See the personal story and VIDEO by Susan Klein: My Family’s A-Fib was Misdiagnosed for Years.

Research has identified a Familial A-Fib where A-Fib is passed on genetically14  Do you have a parent or other immediate family member with A-Fib? Research says you have a 40% increased risk of developing A-Fib yourself. And the younger that family member was when they got A-Fib, the more likely you are to develop A-Fib.

According to Dr. Dan Roden of Vanderbilt University, genetic research may become important to A-Fib patients. He postulates that “Lone A-Fib” (A-Fib without a known cause) may actually be caused by genetics.

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A-FIB TRIGGERS

We’ve had reports that A-Fib can be triggered by antihistamines, bronchial inhalants, local anesthetics, medications such as sumatriptan, a headache drug,15 tobacco use, MSG, cold beverages and eating ice cream, high altitude, and even sleeping on one’s left side or stomach. One person writes that hair regrowth products seem to trigger his A-Fib.

I used to include caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas, etc.) in this list, but some research suggests that coffee and caffeine in moderate to heavy doses (2-3 cups to 10 cups/day) may not trigger or induce A-Fib.16 Coffee (caffeine) may indeed be antiarrhythmic and may reduce propensity and inducibility of A-Fib both in normal hearts and in those with focal forms of A-Fib.17

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Possible Food-Related Triggers

Chocolate in large amounts may trigger attacks. Chocolate contains a little caffeine, but also contains the structurally related theobromine, a milder cardiac stimulant.

Another reader writes that the natural sweetener and sugar substitute Stevia seems to trigger her A-Fib.

GERD (heartburn) and other stomach problems (like H. pylori) may be related to or trigger A-Fib. If so, antacids and proton pump inhibitors like Nexium may help your A-Fib. A report from England suggests that the veterinary antibiotic “Lasalocid” found in eggs and poultry meat may cause or trigger A-Fib.18

Sleep Apnea

Recent research indicates sleep apnea (where your breathing stops while you are sleeping) may contribute to A-Fib, probably by causing stress on the Pulmonary Vein openings and/or by depriving the lungs and body of adequate oxygen supply (Hypoxemic Hypoxia).

Over 25 million Americans currently have sleep apnea, but 80% of these people don’t know they have it

In one study of patients with A-Fib, 43% had sleep apnea. (An additional 31% had “central sleep apnea/Cheyne-Stokes respiration” which is a different type of sleep apnea.)19  

If you have A-Fib, it’s wise to have yourself checked for sleep apnea. You can do a “quick” check of how much oxygen is in your blood with a Pulse Oximeter, such as the Contec Pulse Oximeter for about $20 from Amazon.com and in drug stores. A reading below 90% would indicate you need to have a sleep lab study.

You may want to check out the web site, MySleepApnea, http://www.myapnea.org, an online community for people with sleep apnea to s hare health info and personal experiences. (The Shaquille O’Neal video is terrific!)

Gail writes that “both her sleep apnea and her A-Fib were cured by a CPAP [Continuous Positive Airway Pressure] breathing machine.” (E-mail her: gail(at)bonairwine.com.)

Mechanically Induced A-Fib

Be careful if you work around equipment that vibrates. Certain frequencies and/or vibrations may possibly trigger or induce A-Fib. (If anyone has any info on how or why high frequencies and/or vibrations may possibly affect A-Fib, please let me know.)

Jerry writes that “high powered magnets, such as the N50, may trigger A-Fib due to the electromagnetic fields they generate.” (If you have any info on this, please email me.)

Physical and Gender Characteristics

Men get A-Fib more than women. But women may have more symptoms.

Athletes are more prone to A-Fib perhaps because they have larger hearts where there is more room for these extra electrical signals to develop and propagate, and possibly because of the extra pressure they put on their pulmonary veins through aerobic exercise. A-Fib is often found in tall people, particularly basketball players.20

Men get A-Fib more than women. But women fail more antiarrhythmic drugs therapies than men and may have more symptoms. For more see my article: The Facts About Women with A-Fib: Mother Nature and Gender Bias.

Aging

A-Fib is associated with aging of the heart. As patients get older, the prevalence of A-Fib increases, roughly doubling with each decade. 2-3% of people in their 60s, 5-6% of people in their 70s, and 8-10% of people in their 80s have A-Fib.21,22,23Approximately 70% of people with A-Fib are between 65 and 85 years of age.24 This suggests that A-Fib may be related to degenerative, age-related changes in the heart. Inflammation may contribute to the structural remodeling associated with A-Fib.25

No Known Cause

But in many A-Fib cases (around 50% of Paroxysmal A-Fib26), there is no currently discernible cause or trigger (called “Lone” or “Idiopathic A-Fib”).27 (Some research suggests that inflammation may initiate Lone A-Fib.)28

Read how others have dealt with their Atrial Fibrillation at A-Fib.com

Visit http://a-fib.com/personal-experiences/

Last updated: Sunday, April 10, 2016

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References    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Miyasaka, Yoko, et al, Secular Trends in Incidence of Atrial Fibrillation in Olmsted County, Minnesota, 1980 to 2000, and Implications on the Projections for Future Prevalence Circulation, 2006;114:119-125. Last accessed Feb 15, 2013. URL: http://www.circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/114/2/119
  2. Nelson, Bryn. “Places In The Heart,” NYU Physician. Spring, 2009, p. 8.
  3. Van Wagoner, David “Atrial selective strategies for treating atrial fibrillation.” Drug Discovery Today: Therapeutic Strategies Vol 2, No. 3, 2005. “We have detected increased levels of the systemic inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in patients with A-Fib.”
  4. S. S. Chugh, et al. Worldwide Epidemiology of Atrial Fibrillation: A Global Burden of Disease 2010 Study. Circulation, 2013; DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.005119
  5. Camm, “Stroke in atrial fibrillation: Update on pathology, new antithrombotic therapies, and evolution of procedures and devices.” Annals of Medicine, 39:5, 371-391, 2007
  6. The Link Between Infections and Inflammation in Heart Disease. Life Extension Vitamins. Last accessed November 5, 2012 http://www.lifeextensionvitamins.com/cadico6otco.html
  7. Bottom Line Personal, October 15, 2014, p. 11. Kallmunzer, Bernd et al. Peripheral pulse measurement after ischemic stroke. Nuerology, Published Online May 6, 2014 http://www.neurology.org/content/83/7/598.abstract?sid=f532228b-5314-46d3-bdca-a7db9bc7fa7d
  8. Frost L., et al. “Atrial fibrillation and flutter after coronary artery bypass surgery: epidemiology, risk factors and preventive trials. International Journal of Cardiology. 1992;36:253-262.
  9. Calkins, H. and Berger, R. “Atrial Fibrillation The Latest Management Strategies.” The Johns Hopkins Medicine Library, p. 10.
  10. Alcohol May Trigger Serious Palpitations in Heart Patients. American Journal of Cardiology (August 1, 2012) http://www.newswise.com/articles/alcohol-may-trigger-serious-palpitations-in-heart-patients
  11. Conen D, Tedrow UB, Cook NR, Moorthy MV, Buring JE, Albert CM (December 2008). “Alcohol consumption and risk of incident atrial fibrillation in women”. JAMA 300 (21): 2489 96.
    doi:10.1001/jama.2008.755. PMID 19050192. PMC 2630715. http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/300/21/2489.
  12. Heeringa J, et al. Cigarette smoking and risk of atrial fibrillation: the Rotterdam Study. Am Heart J. 2008 Dec;156(6):1163-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2008.08.003. Last accessed Jan 6, 2013 URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19033014
  13. Vivek Y. Reddy, M.D., Joins The Mount Sinai Medical Center as Director of Electrophysiology Laboratories.  May 6, 2009 . http://www.prweb.com/printer/2396634.htm
  14. Brugada R. “Identification of a genetic locus for familial atrial fibrillation,” New England Journal of Medicine 1997;336:p. 905-911. Ellinor et al., 2005, 2008. Sinner et al., 2011.
  15. The Link Between Infections and Inflammation in Heart Disease. Life Extension Vitamins. Last accessed November 5, 2012 http://www.lifeextensionvitamins.com/cadico6otco.html
  16. Katan, M, Schouten, E. Caffeine and arrhythmia1,2,3. Am J Clin Nutr March 2005 vol. 81 no. 3 539-540. Last accessed November 5, 2012 http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/81/3/539
  17. Rashid, Abdul et al. “The effects of caffeine on the inducibility of Atrial fibrillation.” J Electrocardiol. 2006 October, 39(4): 421-425. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2257921/
  18. Barclay, L. Caffeine Not Associated With Increased Risk of Atrial Fibrillation. Mar 10, 2005. Medscape News Today. Last accessed November 5, 2012. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/501279?src=search
  19. Bitter, T. et al. Sleep-disordered Breathing in Patients With Atrial Fibrillation and Normal Systolic Left Ventricular Function. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2009; 106(10): 164-70  http://www.aerzteblatt.de/pdf/di/106/10/m164.pdf. DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2009.0164
  20. “The tallest patients in a recent study were 32% more likely to have A-Fib than the shortest ones. Doctors estimate that for every six-inch increase in height, the risk for A-Fib increases by 50%.” Bottom Line Health, July, 2006, p. 14.
  21. Go, “Anticoagulation and Risk Factors in Atrial Fibrillation (ATRIA) study. Prevalence of diagnosed atrial fibrillation in adults: national implications for rhythm management and stroke prevention.” JAMA, 2001:285:2370-2375.
  22. Philip A. et al. Atrial Fibrillation: A Major Contributor to Stroke in the Elderly, : The Framingham Study. Arch Intern Med 1987;147:1561-1564.
  23. Feinberg, “Prevalence, age distribution, and gender of patients with atrial fibrillation: analysis and implications.” Arch Intern Med 1995;155:469-473.
  24. Laish-Farkash, A. et al. Atrial Fibrillation in the Elderly—To Ablate or Not to Ablate, J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 2013;24(7):739-741. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/807303.
  25. Van Wagoner, David “Atrial selective strategies for treating atrial fibrillation.” Drug Discovery Today: Therapeutic Strategies Vol 2, No. 3, 2005. “We have detected increased levels of the systemic inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in patients with A-Fib.
  26. Allessie, Maurits A. et al. “Pathophysiology and Prevention of Atrial Fibrillation.” Circulation. 2001;103:769.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid.

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